Hidden in my kitchen cupboard is a vast pile of shopping bags. They are my secret shame; the result of depending on a deeply problematic material that has invaded every aspect of my life: plastic.
At first glance, a pile of plastic bags collecting in my closet may seem benign, but merely glancing is the problem. Because plastic is so common, so omnipresent and familiar, it has pretty much become invisible. It is only when we focus on plastic that we realise how completely it has infiltrated our lives, becoming a glaring physical embodiment of a devastating dependency. An extremely useful material—one that has helped us advance far beyond our wildest imaginings—it’s no wonder we got hooked.
How to unhook? That’s an enormous challenge. As you read on, know that no part of the globe is plastic free, an extremely troubling reality as the vast majority of plastic is made from petrochemicals, which are, in turn, made from fossil fuels. More plastic production means more fossil fuel extraction, which only serves to deepen the climate and ecological crisis we face—and we are creating far more plastic today than ever before. Approximately five trillion plastic bags are produced each year globally, with many discarded in landfills or at sea. What does that mean over time? It is estimated that a single bag takes roughly ten to twenty years to break down. Eventually, each bag decomposes into microplastics, which have been found at the bottom of oceans, floating in the air to eventually fall in rain or snow, nestled in our food and water supplies, and even lodged within our bodies. The plastic bag you use today could one day resurface in the bodies of your great, great, great, great grandchildren.
Plastic pollution is causing devastating harm, especially in the Global South, and is a growing crisis that needs to be dealt with immediately. So, who’s to blame?
On one side there’s Big Oil, a seemingly unstoppable goliath making obscene profits from our addiction to fossil fuels, which are used to make plastic. To maintain its stranglehold on the world, the oil and gas industry spends vast amounts of money both lobbying politicians and creating sophisticated marketing campaigns, all to undermine any efforts to halt the climate and ecological crisis... and these multinational companies fight tooth and nail to protect their shareholders' dividends.
On the other side there’s you, me, and everyone who believes this planet should be protected, not plundered. We must learn, spread the word, and fight back.
To comprehend the depth and consequences of our plastic addiction and how we became hostages of the fossil fuel industry, we need to understand how and why plastic came to dominate our lives.
First created in the nineteenth century, synthetic polymers, or plastics, proved to be a revolutionary material, eventually becoming vital for America during World War II. Ten years later—due to its low cost and malleable nature—it moved from the battlefield to our backyards. A modern-day miracle that would free humankind and propel us into the future, plastic soon became fundamental to daily life, and from the 1960s forward, the global plastics market became increasingly profitable. In 2021, it was worth $593 billion, with forecasted growth to $810 billion expected by 2030.
It is the versatility of plastic that has led to such prodigious figures. Plastic helps ensure the supply of clean water via PVC pipes, it keeps food fresh and safe to eat, and, owing to plastic’s high strength-to-weight ratio, its reduced packaging results in lower transportation costs, increased energy savings, and potentially lower transportation emissions than other materials. Plastic has also revolutionised the medical industry by helping to improve safety standards as well as lowering the cost of providing medical treatment.
Take a look around you now. Aside from bags, count the products you use on a daily basis that contain plastic. Can you imagine doing without your car, smartphone, laptop, television, refrigerator, ice trays, headphones, toothbrush, shampoo, light bulbs, electric sockets, carpet, and wallpaper? Even our clothing—60% of it!—is plastic. (Think polyester, acrylic, nylon.)
We use so much because it is useful and cost effective, but also because we are regularly encouraged to buy the latest version of our favourite products. Consumption and disposal have become fundamental cogs in the wheel of modern life, with the planned obsolescence of products now forming a major part of marketing strategies for many twenty-first century companies.
By 2050, the petrochemicals used to make plastics are predicted to be one of the main drivers of global oil consumption. Unfortunately, pushing plastic production to the fore comes with a heavy cost.
According to a 2017 study, “8.3 billion tonnes of plastic have been produced over the last seventy years, with 6.3 billion tonnes being tossed away. Only 9% of this has been recycled, with 79% ending up in landfills, and the remaining 12% being incinerated.” Currently, roughly 400 million tonnes of plastic is created each year, with a massive amount being thrown away, mainly in the form of single-use plastic packaging.
We therefore need to examine the roots of single-use packaging so that we can truly understand how damaging it is to our environment and ecosystems. Here, then, is your plastic-packaging primer. Prepare to be blown away by things that get thrown away but, alas, do not go away.
It’s 1956 in New York City. At the Society of the Plastics Industry conference, Lloyd Stouffer— editor of Modern Plastics magazine—declares ‘‘The future of plastics is in the trash can.” Here’s how he explained it a few years later:
“What I had said in the talk was that it was time for the plastics industry to stop thinking about ‘reuse’ packages and concentrate on single use. For the package that is used once and thrown away, like a tin can or a paper carton, represents not a one-shot market for a few thousand units, but an everyday recurring market measured by the billions of units. Your future in packaging, I said, does indeed lie in the trash can.”
Single-use plastics are disposable items packaging everything from medicine to food to water bottles: everyday objects we all use and throw away. Approximately 130 million tonnes of single-use plastics are produced each year, with all but 2% coming from freshly produced plastic, which in turn comes from… yep: petrochemicals.
Most single-use plastic will be thrown away, with anything from 5 to 13 million tonnes dumped into small nearby waterways each year. A large proportion of this plastic finds its way to the world’s oceans via municipal and larger rivers such as the Mississippi and Mekong. From there, the plastic travels into local coastal systems, where most of it washes back to clog up shorelines, leaving about 10% ending up in deep oceans.
Over half a million tonnes of plastic are ferried to oceans by the offshore fishing industry in the form of plastic fishing nets, lines, buoys, and packing containers—and left there. Called Ghost Gear, this terrible mass of plastic disrupts delicate ocean ecosystems, from the tiniest molluscs to turtles mistaking plastic bags for jellyfish, to the largest marine animals. A dead whale found on a Scottish island in 2019 had a horrific pile of plastic in its guts.
It all adds up to the death of marine life on a massive scale, now, and for centuries to come. Recent research has also shown that plastic pollution is a factor in amplifying heavy metal pollution in the oceans, which then infiltrates the food chain with potentially devastating effects for marine life and humans.
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en, via Wikimedia Commons
If plastic, and especially single-use plastic is such a toxic material, how did it come to dominate almost every facet of life on planet earth over the last seventy years? The answer in part lies in the extremely sophisticated and sustained campaigns of mass manipulation conducted by the oil and gas and plastic industries.
Greenwashing, an intentionally deceptive manoeuvre, is when companies present themselves as being more environmentally conscientious than they really are. In some cases, they not only continue selling products that damage the environment, but even hinder demonstrably verified ways of revving up recycling. It is corporate sleight of hand designed to shift attention away from their own complicity in deepening the climate and ecological crisis, a tactic those industries have been deploying for decades.
In the US, awareness of environmental damage caused by single-use plastics first began in the 1960s. That’s also the decade the word “recycle” entered popular usage (it was coined within the oil industry in the 1920s!). By the mid 60s, said coinage made a robust rebound, carrying with it the promise of actual coins: people could bring their used bottles back to stores for recycling, earning five cents for each return. Called bottle bills, this immediate, remunerative incentive for recycling on a massive scale—from villages to states—was a win-win. To this day, wherever such legislation exists, recycling rates are significantly higher than places without them: sometimes more than twice as high.
But bottle bills and the like have a huge and powerful opponent: the beverage and packaging industry, which includes “many of the non-profit groups they control”. As soon as any such recycling plans have popped up, companies have quickly mobilised their money for a fierce and fact-free two-pronged rebuttal. Privately, they lobbied politicians. Publicly, they made their case on TV screens, creating iconic ad campaigns shifting blame from themselves onto consumers.
Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a non-profit organisation founded in 1953 by the American Can Company, Philip Morris, and Coca-Cola among others (and today partnered with organisations from Dow, McDonalds, Pepsico, and Anheuser-Busch, to the Plastics Industry Association), along with the Ad Council, deftly reassigned guilt to its customers by developing a series of advertising campaigns that still resonate today.
Two of KAB’s notable creations are the term “litterbug” and the iconic 1970s “Crying Indian” public service announcement. Both placed the responsibility for the increasing mountain of waste onto the public rather than the industries that deliberately began pushing single-use plastic a few decades earlier.
Corporate greenwashing still happens today, with Coca-Cola, the world’s biggest “corporate plastic polluter”, sponsoring COP27 in one of the most cynical recent examples of industrial misdirection. The “don’t be a litterbug” campaign made a comeback in Malaysia in 2012. A few years later, in 2019, Shell announced a headline-grabbing “$300m fund for investing in natural ecosystems”, a well-timed and effective publicity stunt, drawing attention away from the monstrous revenues they generate by extracting and refining fossil fuels.
The oil and gas industry has also placed the responsibility for solving greenhouse gas emissions onto consumers, urging us to be aware of our own “carbon footprint”, by using a carbon calculator. This shift of responsibility and focus, along with ExxonMobil’s suppression of the reality of burning fossil fuels nimbly offloads all guilt firmly onto the public for buying their exponentially profitable products: petrol and plastic.
The value of the plastic packaging market is predicted to increase to $492 billion over the next seven years, and it is difficult to escape the conclusion that the desire to protect this ocean of money lies at the root of the industries’ persuasive messaging that we, not they, are the cause of plastic pollution.
However, despite the petrochemical and oil and gas industries’ attempts to convince us that two plus two is five, the amount of plastic polluting our oceans and land increases daily, with even our clothes contributing to this plague of plastic particles.
This destructive cycle must be broken soon, for as devastating as the near future that awaits is, it already is the cause of horrific inequality, poor health, and environmental destruction in the Global South.
Making Money from Plastic Bottles - New York: Photo by Hope Lourie Kilcoyne
Understanding who the heaviest plastic polluters are is tricky due to a lack of international data; however, wealthier countries are among the biggest producers and consumers of plastic. They are also home to some of the largest plastic-producing petrochemical companies. Until recently, their role in contributing to marine plastic pollution in the oceans was overshadowed by the now-debunked claims that Asian countries were the heaviest plastic polluters in the world.
Some things, though, are easier to debunk than others. For example, although people in more affluent countries may believe all their plastic waste is being recycled, because the process is inefficient, expensive, and difficult - this is not the case. Instead, countries including Australia, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands claim to be recycling plastic, while the truth is they’re actually exporting a large portion for someone else to deal with.
Until 2017, China imported huge quantities of plastic waste, which over time became increasingly difficult if not impossible to recycle, instead being dumped in landfills, and accelerating China’s own increasing domestic waste problem.
Confronting an environmental and health catastrophe that had to be addressed, in 2017, the Chinese Government implemented the National Sword programme, which banned imports of certain types of plastic. However, this policy created a problem for many richer countries, as they now needed to place more rubbish into local landfills while simultaneously finding new markets for their plastic waste. Inevitably, this meant sending their toxic waste to countries with less well-developed recycling industries. Doing so has resulted in a climate justice crisis, with less wealthy nations becoming sacrifice zones for the richest, often without their consent.
Historically, plastic waste has been exported to poorer countries around the globe, including Kenya, Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam. As happened in China, these countries face issues with dealing with their own waste. Within these countries, it is the poorest of the poor who have to deal with it. This can be seen in Nairobi, Kenya, home to Dandora Municipal Dump Site, where the most marginalised Kenyans live, work, study and play amidst their wealthier compatriots’ rotting rubbish.
https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
What is life like day to day for the destitute? They live next to toxic landfill sites, sorting through hazardous waste as workers in unregulated informal recycling industries. Here they breathe fumes from incinerating plastic, which not only releases more carbon dioxide, but also emits black carbon, or soot, which has been linked to a host of devastating diseases.
The people working and living in these diabolical conditions are exposed to dangerous contaminants, and consequently develop a plethora of “health conditions including diabetes, hypertension, mental health conditions, and respiratory illnesses”. Inevitably, women are the hardest hit.
These communities and others—including poor or racially marginalised groups—have not meekly accepted this state of affairs. It has taken time, and it is an uphill struggle, but over the last forty years or so, coalitions to change their circumstances have emerged. The environmental justice movement rose from protests against the dumping of toxic soil in the poorest Black communities in America during the 1980s; and subsequent studies showed that race was indeed a critical factor in how the most dangerous types of waste were dealt with.
However, they have faced an uphill struggle in the face of increasing plastic production and consumption, and as the climate crisis has deepened, it is clear that the deep social injustice they have experienced is being amplified on a global scale, including Louisiana's "Cancer Alley”; Orosi, California; Palestine; Somalia; and Kenya.
People Working on a Scrapyard, Chattogram, Chittagong Division, Bangladesh.
Photo by Mumtahina Tanni.
Humans consume too much, so much that our addiction to plastic is helping create what could potentially be a new geological age called the Anthropocene. We have created an awful mess, one that is hard to justify, and even harder to clean up.
However, some governments are implementing policies that restrict the use of plastics. Leading the charge are African countries, from Tanzania to Rwanda, which are protecting themselves from the harm of plastics. The European Parliament also passed legislation in 2021 that banned a variety of single-use plastics. In March 2022, the United Nations Environment Assembly adopted a mandate to begin negotiations for an international plastic pollution treaty, which is currently being negotiated. In January 2021 the Basel Convention, which controls the “movement and disposal of waste”, was amended (despite opposition from the United States government), so that now the export of plastic waste needs to be approved by the countries importing it—a very big deal.
However, the oil and gas industry will not give up its golden goose without a fight.
Over the last fifty years, Big Oil has made $2.8 billion a day in profits, and the recent shale gas boom in the US along with Chinese and Middle Eastern investment in plastics infrastructure represent their next get-rich-quick scheme.
These companies will continue lobbying politicians and fighting any threats to their bottom line, as moving away from using plastics—especially single use plastics, along with the inevitable shift towards renewables—presents them with an existential threat.
They will also call upon their government allies, who have received fossil-fuel funding while facilitating massive oil and gas subsidies, to keep the cash flowing. These politicians will also protect their interests by enacting laws that treat us, the ordinary citizens who are desperate to save our future, as dangerous extremists. Never forget that the real extremists sit in plush boardrooms and stalk the corridors of power.
We need to be informed, counter their misinformation and tell the truth about plastic waste. We must act now, keeping pressure on our governments to enact legislation that will turn the tide. We also need to go beyond conventional, broken politics to inclusive participatory systems in which citizens have a say and stake in our collective future.
Blindly trusting the politicians and industry leaders to lead us out of the mess they created will not work; we need to take the future into our own hands.
In this issue: COP15 | XR France vs Forever Chemicals | Stop EACOP |
96% of all the mammals on Earth today are either human or our livestock. 4% are wild. Humanity is wiping out the biodiversity of this planet, and we are doing it with terrifying speed.
Animal populations worldwide have declined by 69% since 1970 (by 94% if just looking at Latin America and the Caribbean). 1 million plant and animal species face extinction.
Last month, governments converged in Montreal, Canada for two weeks to try and reverse the largest loss of life on this planet since the dinosaurs. The UN summit on biodiversity, known as COP15, resulted in a new set of biodiversity targets to meet over the coming decade, known as the Global Biodiversity Framework.
Rebels discuss biodiversity loss with students in Tanzania, one of many seminars held across Africa during the COP15 negotiations in Montreal.
This Framework has been called a ‘major milestone’ by some campaigners, a ‘failure to stop mass extinction’ by others. Find out more about its contents, and the rebel actions launched during its negotiation, by heading to Action Highlights.
You can also hear from a Canadian rebel who has campaigned passionately for biodiversity and attended the summit in Humans of COP15, then read more reactions to COP15 and stories about biodiversity loss in Must Reads.
Rebels enter a toxic chemical plant that is poisoning a whole region of France.
This issue, we also report on how hundreds of rebels invaded a toxic petrochemical factory in France that is leaking terrifying ‘forever chemicals’, and we dedicate Solidarity Corner to the brave activists of Stop EACOP who are being persecuted for protesting against a monstrous crude oil pipeline that will run across East Africa.
Whatever you feel about the biodiversity targets that emerged from COP15, none of them are legally binding. We live in a world where trade deals are protected by law, but deals to ensure the survival of a million species are merely voluntary.
Human overconsumption has spread extractivism, pollution, and habitat destruction all over our planet, and extinguished nearly three quarters of its life. And it’s growth-dependent capitalism which demands that this overconsumption continues.
When we live in a world where international biodiversity deals are legally enforced, and trade deals must yield to their demands - that will be a world where nature has a fighting chance. We must dedicate our activism this year to bringing that world about.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.
7 - 19 DECEMBER | Montreal, Canada & Worldwide
After two years of pandemic-induced delays and a change of host country, governments from 195 countries finally arrived in Montreal for COP15, the UN summit on biodiversity.
As negotiations began on the biodiversity targets that would define the decade, rebels in some of the most biodiverse regions of the world launched actions to pressure their governments and spread awareness of the biodiversity crisis.
Rebels in Argentina staged a blood-smeared protest outside a courthouse in Córdoba to demand their government stop the relentless extractivism and construction in the region, and address local water shortages.
In Misiones, the province with the greatest biodiversity in Argentina, rebels painted messages on the motorway walls that act as death traps for endangered animals. More than 5000 are killed each year, including jaguars, ocelots, bears and tapirs.
Rebels rally in Córdoba & Misiones, Argentina (top), on the streets of Medellín, Colombia, and by the National Service of Protected Areas in La Paz, Bolivia (bottom).
Across Africa, including in Democratic Republic of Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, and Uganda, rebels held seminars with farmers, students, and women’s groups to discuss the causes and impacts of biodiversity loss, and spread awareness of sustainable cultivation practices as well as the need to conserve wild spaces.
Rebels in Zimbabwe (welcome, XR Zimbabwe!) marked COP15 by planting trees on a deforested part of a mountain sold to a stone-mining company. The quarry was green lit by Mutare city council last year even though it endangered local residents and their water supply.
Rebels discuss preservation of wetlands in DRC, combating desertification in Gumel, Nigeria (top), ending deforestation in Iganga, Uganda, and planting trees on Danagamvura mountain in Zimbabwe (bottom).
In Montreal itself, activists from Collectif Antigone (who have close links with XR Montreal) helped unfurl a giant banner telling world leaders to stop following the whims of ecocidal billionaires trying to influence global policy on biodiversity.
Indigenous people make up 6% of the world’s population, but protect 80% of the world’s biodiversity, and so Indigenous Leaders converged in Montreal to ensure their rights were enshrined in COP15’s agreement.
After two weeks of negotiations, a Framework of four goals and 23 targets was agreed to by all parties. The final text recognised Indigenous leadership as key to recovering biodiversity and called for Indigenous people (as well as all women, children, and disabled people) to be part of national decision-making.
A Namblong woman from West Papua, Indonesia explains how a palm oil company is destroying her forest homeland at a press conference in Montreal. Photo: Toma Iczkovits/Greenpeace
Elsewhere, though, the Framework has serious problems. Many of the targets are written in vague or compromised language. Even the headline target of preserving 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 doesn’t explicitly exclude extractivism from those protected areas.
Corporate schemes like offsetting are also included in the targets, enabling ecocidal industries to continue exploiting what’s left of our biodiversity for profit.
And in a repeat performance of COP27, the Global North is refusing to give adequate funds to the Global South to stop planetary breakdown. The Global South is rich in biodiversity, and protecting it takes money. Negotiations very nearly broke down over this issue, and the final pledge of $30bn per year is far from enough.
Climber-activists unfurl a banner telling billionaires to back off from biodiversity policy in central Montreal.
But the biggest problem with the targets is that they are not legally binding. Governments are expected to go away and draw their own plans to implement them, then report back at COP16 in Turkey next year, echoing the failed process that followed the Paris Agreement.
The last time governments set UN biodiversity targets, in Japan in 2010, they failed to meet a single one.
Biodiversity has long taken second place to the climate crisis on the world stage, despite both crises arising from human overconsumption and a global economic system reliant on that overconsumption. Until this ecocidal engine is dismantled, there is no credible way for our atmosphere to decarbonise, nor for our planet to sustain a healthy biosphere.
For more analysis of COP15 check out Must Reads and Humans of COP15.
17 DEC | Lyon, France
Rebels in protective gear outside a chemical plant that is poisoning the whole region.
Hundreds of rebels from XR Lyon celebrated the holiday season by targeting a local plant of the petrochemical giant, Arkema. The multinational corporation is a major producer of perfluorinated chemicals.
Perfluorinated chemicals are highly toxic and carcinogenic, and accumulate in soil and water thanks to their near indestructibility - earning them the nickname “forever chemicals”.
Testing shows that the plant’s chemicals have contaminated both the local area and its inhabitants. A recently aired documentary revealed that the water supply of 200,000 people contained dangerous concentrations, as did the breastmilk of local women.
Rebels hold a die-in outside the regional watchdog that has ignored Arkema’s ecocide.
Rebels dressed in protective overalls and facemasks stormed the plant site, just south of Lyon, banging drums and chanting as security quickly mobilised to evict them. Meanwhile, a second rebel group held a die-in outside DREAL, the regional environmental watchdog that has ignored the plant’s chronic pollution for decades.
Around 300 rebels participated in the actions, and although police made 20 arrests, no rebels were charged. Importantly and unusually, the French government gave two responses to XR Lyon’s actions. Though not supportive of the disruption, they did agree to start negotiations within Europe to further regulate environmental pollutants.
In the US, Arkema was successfully convicted by the state of Michigan for contaminating its water and environment with perfluorinated chemicals. In France, not only are there no convictions, but Arkema is given tax-breaks to continue its ecocide.
XR Lyon will be closely following any regulatory developments and maintain pressure on the French government to ban these Earth-killing chemicals.
13 DEC | Sydney, Australia: A Fireproof Australia activist and former rebel is released from prison on bail after an outrageous sentence of 15 months for disrupting Sydney Harbour Bridge. The sentence will be appealed in March. Read her first interview since release.
14 DEC | London, UK: HSBC announces it will stop funding new oil and gas fields (although it excludes its soon-to-be-sold operations in Canada). The move comes after Lloyds, another British banking giant, announced an end to ‘direct’ funding of fossil fuel projects in October. It’s not the end of all fossil fuel financing by the big banks, but it’s a start. Protest works, people! Partial victory!
24 DEC | Makassar, Indonesia: A rebel addresses world leaders as he stands in floodwater outside his house. His message: the climate crisis is happening today. Loss and Damage is real. Act now.
25 DEC | Kaduna, Nigeria: A Christmas rebel flash mob called for their government to stem widespread poverty in the country after months of extreme flooding, and reduce the rampant tree-felling which is destroying biodiversity and making the flooding worse.
26 DEC | Buenos Aires, Argentina: Police detained eight rebels after they peacefully protested outside the offices of oil fracking company, Equinor. The rebels used washable paint to write messages on the glass skyscraper before staging a sit-in outside its entrance. The rebels were later released after being issued with an infraction report, meaning they will face a court summons.
1 JAN | UK: Despite the provocative headline, XR UK has not quit, just temporarily shifted its tactics, moving away from actions that disrupt the public to focus instead on actions that encourage mass participation. The move is part of the build up to ‘The Big One’, starting on 21st April, when XR UK hopes to gather 100,000 people around the Houses of Parliament in London. Everyone’s needed to make history, so sign up now.
So many actions happened this month, we can’t fit them all into one newsletter. Find out about amazing actions in Italy, Sweden, Rwanda, USA & more by reading NEWSLETTER XTRA: a feast for the eyes and extra fuel for the soul!
A rebel demands an end to ecocide outside Córdoba’s courthouse, Argentina
In this COP15 edition of Must Reads, we have two verdicts on the final Framework, two startling stories of recent and ongoing corporate ecocide, an investigation into the rapid and largely hidden decline of insects, and the true solution to all this loss - degrowth!
Greenpeace: A Bandage For Biodiversity
A pithy analysis of the COP15 agreement that lacerates the final text for containing ‘false solutions’, ‘greenwashing’, and ‘protections on paper but nowhere else’.
Resilience: Biodiversity - Targets and Lies
This analysis of the COP15 agreement co-authored by an ex-spokesperson of XR UK and a green economist argues that it will take much more than non-binding long-term targets to reverse the biodiversity crisis.
Guardian: The Coal Mine That Ate an Indian Village
The story of how the Adani Group insidiously destroyed a village and razed a pristine forest to get hold of $5bn worth of coal. A text-book case of corporate ecocide, and one that COP15 should have prohibited for good.
Wired: The Quest to Defuse Guyana’s Carbon Bomb
An inspiring report on how a former BP lawyer is trying to stop Exxon from drilling for oil off Guyana’s shoreline. A potential landmark case for dismantling the oil industry.
Reuters: The Collapse of Insects
This beautifully presented article investigates how insects are dying off at a frightening rate, and why these tiny, mysterious organisms are vital to all life on Earth.
Nature: Degrowth Can Work
Researchers in ecological economics call for degrowth - the scaling down of destructive and unnecessary forms of production to reduce energy and material use, to enable rapid decarbonization, and to end ecological breakdown.
It was Bill McKibben’s book The End of Nature that first woke me up to the climate and ecological emergency, back in 1989. I was so shocked by the title, I ran out to get a copy. This book made so clear and concrete what we were doing to our world – what we were destroying.
I’ve been following the development of XR since it emerged in 2018, and am part of XR Québec. In December 2022, along with about 18,000 others, I attended COP15 in Montreal, not far from my home in Canada. It was a mixed bag: passionate young activists, Indigenous campaigners, and scientists, as well as political and corporate figures apparently unable to think beyond our ecocidal status quo.
Although there was a lot of promising language, I’ve been referring to COP15 as the “make a wish” biodiversity conference. Almost 200 participating nations adopted four overarching goals and twenty-three targets to hit by 2030, but the major problem – and the reason I use the term, “make a wish” – is that these are not legally binding. The agreement is a set of “ambitions”. So, the agreement itself is only the start. We now need, urgently, to enforce these targets. We need to act radically and fast.
Another problem is the vagueness and inadequacy of some of the targets. For example, number three is about conserving ‘at least 30% of terrestrial, inland water, and of coastal and marine areas,’ by 2030. But this is too vague, and ‘at least 30%’ is not enough. One of my heroes, the late biologist and writer Edward O. Wilson, said we need to ensure that at least 50% of nature is protected.
It was good to see that defending nature protectors – hundreds of whom are killed every year – was included in the agreement, but again, without a legal framework, it’s just wish-making.
A crucial question for me is: how do you inspire a love for nature in other people? Can you educate others to feel that? I used to run music festivals, where I incorporated conversations about biodiversity and climate into the programming. It made perfect sense to me, and I believe climate and ecology should form a core part of our education throughout school and university, and should permeate every part of our culture.
I also believe we need to work one-to-one, and in our local communities, and to rapidly set up Citizens’ Assemblies across the world, as XR demands, while continuing to participate in civil disobedience wherever possible.
Underlying all this, we must incorporate nature into our understanding of ourselves in the world. And we need to ask: what restrictions are we going to place on the rich world in order to protect life on Earth, including all human life? It is an unpopular question, but one that demands an answer.
Read more about Doug’s COP15 visit on his blog Georgian Triangle Earth Day Celebration
If you know (or are) a rebel somewhere in the world with a story to tell, get in touch at email@example.com
Students with Stop EACOP begin their march through Kampala. Police were waiting.
We are living through an unprecedented climate crisis thanks to the overconsumption of fossil fuels. If there’s one thing we really don’t need, it's 1,445 kilometres of brand-new oil pipeline.
The East African Oil Pipeline (EACOP) is brought to you by French oil giant TotalEnergies, the China National Offshore Oil Corporation, and the Ugandan Government. It is supposed to stretch from oil fields in Uganda to the port of Tanga in Tanzania. Its effects on local communities and the environment would be disastrous.
A large coalition of activists has organised to stop EACOP by protesting, taking legal action, and trying to block the financial flows and insurance of the project. The harsh reaction of the Ugandan government shows that they have struck a nerve.
Police bundled nine activists into jeeps and imprisoned them for nearly a week.
In October, several brave students started a protest march through the capital Kampala demanding that their government stop EACOP. At least nine were arrested and detained in Uganda’s maximum security prison for nearly a week.
Now, they are facing charges of inciting violence. “They exercised their right to peacefully protest, and were arrested”, says a Stop EACOP activist, who works under a pseudonym for her safety.
The Ugandan government does not treat all protests equally. When students and school children from across Kampala 'unexpectedly’ marched in favour of EACOP and against an EU resolution that condemned the pipeline, the protest received extensive police protection.
The nine students were eventually released on bail, but now face trumped-up charges.
“Over 100,000 people would or have been displaced by the pipeline,” the Stop EACOP activist explains. “Most of them are farmers, whose livelihoods depend on their land. I know many families from western Uganda who lost their independence.”
“Now they must cultivate other people’s land. That affects their income, their ability to send their children, especially girls, to school. And we see similar things happening in Tanzania.”
When it comes to fossil fuel projects, social and ecological damage go hand in hand, and it’s no surprise that the pipeline also poses a huge threat to many natural reserves, each a biodiversity hotspot and home to endangered species.
It will also affect vital freshwater reserves like the Lake Victoria basin, which provides food and drinking water for 40 million people. And finally, there’s the carbon emissions from the crude oil that would flow through the pipeline - 34 million tons per year.
No More Fairy Tales is a collection of short stories that all showcase characters either developing climate solutions or living in climate solutions, or both.
Some are set far in the future in worlds very different from our current reality. Others have a more or less contemporary setting. Each ends with a footnote suggesting further reading on the solution suggested by the story.
Although the stories are not all from the same author, and some are excerpts from longer, previously published works, they do interlock—reading through the collection, you find characters living in solutions proposed by the characters in previous stories.
Fiction written to deliver a message is seldom as well-realised as fiction written for its own sake, and indeed some of these non-fairy tales read as a little simplistic—and yet they are engaging, accessible, and relatable. Some contain real gems.
And while essays proposing the same solutions might be dry or dull, these stories do the job in a way that is not only clear and effective, but also genuinely enjoyable to read. You care about the characters and hope they make it.
Then you hope we make it.
27 FEBRUARY | Global
Turn the tables on financial colonialism and hold the Global North accountable for their climate debt on a historic date for debt cancellation!
Why February 27th? It’s the 70th anniversary of Nazi Germany's debt cancellation after World War II, which led to its "Economic Miracle".
Today, Germany is the 4th largest voting power in the IMF and the world’s 4th largest historic polluter. Germany, and the rest of the Global North, owe the Global South a massive climate debt, and we will take action globally on this day to make them pay it!
If it was possible to cancel the debt of the Nazis then, it is definitely possible to cancel the debt of the Global South now, and enable a just transition!
Get in touch! firstname.lastname@example.org
Submit by 31 MAY
XR Disabled Rebels Network (DRN) is asking disabled rebels from all over the world to submit contributions for a zine (like a small pamphlet) that will raise awareness of the impact of the climate crisis on disabled people.
Submissions can be sent via email to email@example.com
Contributions from D/deaf, disabled, neurodiverse people, as well as those living with chronic illness or long term health conditions are all welcome. Please state in your email submission whether you want your name included or prefer to use a pseudonym or remain anonymous.
All written submissions must be in English. Written work can be submitted as a file or written as an email. All images must be in JPEG format.
The deadline for submissions for the first edition is 31st of May 2023
Contributions can be in a variety of forms, including personal anecdotes/written pieces (word limit 1500 words), poetry, letters, photos, and all kinds of artworks.
Subjects covered can include the impact of climate change on disabled peoples’ health conditions, medication, support, housing, transport, as well as feelings of exclusion from climate activism, eugenics/stigma, climate Darwinism, and disabled climate refugees.
Once completed, a digital copy of the zine will be made available for free to download. If a publisher can be found, a print copy will also be made available for a small fee.
Sign The Petition Now
Six rebels in South Korea were fined $16,000 for a direct action against the construction of a new airport. They disobeyed the order, went through six trials last year, and are now facing a final trial on January 17th. Please watch the action video.
With solidarity from people around the world, we can make a difference.
Please show your solidarity by signing the petition (it takes less than 1 minute!)
We can’t stop the future, but here’s a chance for writers of all ages to imagine and help shape the world they’d want to live in. Extinction Rebellion Wordsmiths is opening its second round of Solarpunk storytelling following last year’s successful showcase.
Picture a world where we’re more in harmony with nature and ourselves, and have found the technology to help that happen – that is Solarpunk in action!
If you’re new to Solarpunk, read some of our favourite entries from last year. If you’re familiar with it… start imagining!
For more information and inspiration, head to our Solarpunk Showcase 2023 website or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Activists from Mighty Earth projected messages around Montreal during COP15 calling on the Chinese president to stop the extinction of the Tapanuli orangutan. The Chinese state recently bought a dam project in Indonesia that will destroy the last habitat of the rarest great ape in the world. There are fewer than 800 left.
Thank you for reading, rebel. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Get in touch at email@example.com.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.
Welcome to Newsletter XTRA, where everything we couldn’t fit into the main Global Newsletter has its moment to shine. This month we cover actions in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Norway, Italy, Senegal, USA, Rwanda, Spain, and more…
3 DEC | Kinshasha, DRC: Rebels urge the world to agree a new global biodiversity framework at COP15 and their government to mirror its key objectives around habitat conservation and restoration.
5 DEC | Trondheim, Norway: 15 scientist activists with Scientist Rebellion are banned from the city and 2 are arrested after a roadblock in solidarity with Stopp Oljeletinga who are calling on the Norwegian government to end all oil exploration.
5 JAN | Germany: While the excavators of energy company RWE are being defied in Lützerath (left), a tiny town being wiped out for a new coal mine, people gathered across Germany to protest against the destruction of their future. Rallies were held in Berlin (right), Leipzig, Hamburg, and many more cities across Germany.
Police prepare to dismantle a tripod blocking an approach road to Lützerath.
21 DEC | Düsseldorf, Germany: 14 scientists and students block the entrance to a regional Ministry of Economic Affairs in Düsseldorf in solidarity with Lützerath. They spread charcoal across its entrance and pasted scientific studies of the climate crisis on its walls. “If Lützerath falls, Germany will break its climate targets and continue on the highway to climate hell. If Lützerath stays, it could be the beginning of the end of the destructive fossil fuel combustion system.”
12 DEC | London, UK: Ocean Rebellion rebels welcome delegates of the Marine Environment Protection Committee, which was meeting at the UN International Maritime Organisation (IMO). The IMO continues to allow cargo ships and oil tankers to burn Heavy Fuel Oil at sea, which is extremely toxic. Photo: João Daniel Pereira
12 DEC | Stockholm, Sweden: 12 rebels were charged at the Stockholm District Court for a peaceful sit-in in a Volvo showroom where they demanded an end to fossil fuel subsidies. In a double irony, Volvo is both facing charges for climate crimes, and joining other Swedish corporations to launch a global climate appeal.
14 DEC | Ndiarogne, Senegal: Rebels visited the village of Ndiarogne near Dakar to work with a local women’s group to teach the community permaculture, good waste management, and other cultivation techniques to ensure their gardens and local mangrove forests thrive. They also raised awareness of the climate crisis among the village youth.
15 DEC | Massachusetts, USA: Ten rebels are arrested after occupying a private jet operator for four hours.
16 DEC | Kigali, Rwanda: XR Kigali planted trees on the outskirts of the city and held a seminar on how human activity is destroying biodiversity and why we must value all life.
16 DEC | Imo, Nigeria: Rebels took to the streets and the airwaves to demand an end to ecocide. A rebel appeared on state radio to discuss the climate and ecological crisis and there was a road march through the state.
20 DEC | Valencia, Spain: Red Rebels protest a new motorway being constructed through Valencia.
23 DEC | Madrid, Spain: Activists from Futuro Vegetal protest outside a major meat processing company and block a main road in Madrid. They called for the Spanish state to stop subsidising the meat industry and promote plant-based alternatives. Futuro Vegetal also sabotaged the largest slaughterhouse in Europe, which has the capacity to kill up to 30,000 animals each day.
2 JAN | Rome, Italy: 3 rebels from Ultima Generazione are arrested for using fire extinguishers to spray orange paint over Palazzo Madama, the house of the Italian senate. The group is trying to wake up their politicians to the ongoing ecological collapse and potential genocide to come.
2 JAN | Forests of Sweden: Rebels from Oslo and Finland as well as other activists disrupt hunters killing wolves. The hunt is legal despite wolves being endangered. “We are spending several weeks making noise, flying drones, driving cars on the forest roads, going ahead of the hunters. Let's stop this madness together.”
2 JAN | Utrecht, The Netherlands: Rebels at Utrecht Central lie on the cold ground. “The world will become a place without people if we continue like this.”
8 DEC | Munich & Berlin, Germany: Air traffic comes to a standstill at two of Germany’s largest airports thanks to a group of Letzte Generation activists sticking themselves to runways and wandering through airport grounds. Police were informed in advance to ensure the safety of all involved.
21 DEC | Hamburg, Germany: Rebels block a bridge holding a banner saying "Climate protection is not a crime" in solidarity with activists from Letzte Generation (Last Generation) who are being imprisoned for non-violent resistance.
6 DEC | Torino, Italy: Rebels got to work constructing a two-metre high wall outside the entrance of the Regional Environment Department. "Climate Crisis. Closed Due to Default" was written on the bricks.
17 DEC | St Ives, UK: Three rebels dressed as crows broadcast the biodiversity message as COP15 closes. It is critical: in the past 60 years, 69% of all non-human life has gone from our planet. Photo: Gavan Goulder
A Scientist Rebellion activist protests outside COP27 in Egypt.
This Issue: COP27 Actions & Analysis | Ban Private Jets | XR South Korea |
COP27 was a disaster. Yes, world leaders agreed to a ‘Loss and Damage’ fund, meaning the Global South has finally been promised compensation for the destruction caused by Global North emissions.
But yet again, world leaders couldn’t agree to phase down fossil fuels. This fundamental failure, despite nearly three decades of negotiations, cannot be underestimated.
It underlines the fact that while limiting global warming to 1.5°C is still technically possible, politically it is not. Climate scientists have known this for some time, and more and more are speaking out.
The graph shows the relentless rise in atmospheric CO2 levels and global temperature.
There are dangers to delivering such devastating news. Some bad-faith negotiators at COP27 were already using the verdict to try and water down the Paris Agreement. And hubristic articles are lining up to tell us how technology and geoengineering will cool the planet ‘later’.
But by sticking to the fairytale that 1.5°C is possible, we let policymakers hide from their failures and delay the radical action necessary to save lives and ecosystems. And we fail to follow our first demand: to tell the truth.
You can read about some of the beautiful rebel actions around COP27 by heading to Action Highlights. Find out more about why the conference failed, and what this means, by visiting Must Reads. Finally, you can hear from a Rwandan rebel who actually went to Sharm El-Sheikh in a special Humans of COP27.
DRC rebels rally in Shasa market during COP27. The country has unfairly inherited debts taken on by its former colonial occupier, Belgium.
Ultimately, the climate and ecological crisis is a crisis of human overconsumption. And no one overconsumes more than billionaires. The irresponsible elite emit more than a million times more carbon than the global average, and rebels targeted them by blockading private jets around the world. Find out more in Action Highlights.
There you can also find an update from rebels in South Korea, who are nearing the end of an epic court battle over their protest against a vast new floating airport.
Rebels and Scientist Rebellion activists shut down a private jet terminal in Washington, USA - one of a wave of similar actions across the globe.
As 2022 comes to a close, it’s time to face some hard truths. 1.5°C is over, and intolerable suffering is on its way. COP has been co-opted by greenwashers and oil lobbyists, and cannot deliver the policies needed to minimise that suffering.
Nothing less than total economic transformation is necessary now, meaning a move beyond the infinite growth model of capitalism to the sustainable model of degrowth. It is up to us, as part of a movement of movements, to normalise this idea, rather than the competing fantasy that technology and geoengineering will eventually save the day.
Every day we wait, the suffering increases. We don’t have time for fairytales.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.
6 - 20 NOV | Sharm El-Sheikh, Egypt
This year’s COP was hosted by a military dictatorship, sponsored by the world’s worst plastic polluter, and staged in a walled-off resort that limited protest to designated zones. It’s fair to say expectations were low.
But that didn’t stop rebels across the world from demanding action from their politicians. Billed as the COP where ‘Loss and Damage’ would dominate, rebels in the Global South made sure that the destruction already being caused by the emissions of the wealthiest states wasn’t forgotten.
In Nigeria, rebels from XR Muslims interviewed rice farmers devastated by the recent floods. Crops, homes, and even lives have been lost as rivers burst their banks more severely every year. The farmers are also being taken to court for defaulting on bank loans that they have no way of paying.
Farmers in Jigawa, North West Nigeria, discuss the devastating floods this September.
In DRC, rebels teamed up with Debt For Climate to stage a performative dance in a market to the east of the country. Activists demanded that the IMF, the World Bank, and former colonial occupiers Belgium cancel historic debts and support communities who are protecting vital ecosystems like the nearby Virunga National Park.
Rebels in South America also mobilised as COP27 progressed. XR Rosario teamed up with other Argentinian activists (and a polar bear) to rally at a Coca-Cola plant. As well as being the world’s No.1 plastic polluter, the COP27 sponsor is also the worst polluter of the local Paraná river.
Women rebels across Colombia spoke out about the damage extractivism has caused to their lives and country. They held public assemblies and marches demanding the cancellation of unjust debts that induce further ecocide.
Rebels in Argentina rally with a polar bear stuffed with plastic Coca-Cola bottles retrieved from the local river.
A small delegation of African rebels made it to Sharm El-Sheikh to take part in the constricted protests around the conference itself. While they joined a global alliance of activists and indigenous leaders to demand climate justice, solidarity marches were held in cities across the world.
COP27 did end with an agreement to establish a Loss and Damage fund. But this fund is still hypothetical, with the tough questions of who pays and how much still unanswered. A similar promise was also made all the way back at COP15 that is still to be delivered on.
Even worse, countries still couldn’t agree to commit to a phase down of fossil fuels. After 27 conferences and nearly three decades of negotiations, there has never been a formal COP agreement to reduce the world’s use of oil and gas.
A solidarity march in London, one of many across the world (top left). Indigenous grandmothers at COP27 (top right). XR Serbia protest outside the UN building in Belgrade (lower left). Rebels from across Africa unite in Sharm El-Sheikh (lower right).
A major reason for this colossal, likely genocidal, failure is the torrent of fossil fuel lobbyists in negotiations, on the conference floor, and even platformed by nation states. COP27 saw a huge rise in fossil fuel lobbyists - with more attending than any national delegation.
With COP28 set to be held in the UAE, a repressive petrostate with worse per capita carbon emissions than the US or Saudi Arabia, that trend is set to continue.
To paraphrase the UN Secretary General, a fund for Loss and Damage is essential, but means little if we allow the climate crisis to turn an African country into desert. The psychopathy on display by the global elite is chilling, and one can only wonder how long Global South countries will consent to a process that condones it.
For more analysis of COP27 and its implications, check out this issue’s Must Reads.
5 & 10 NOV | Netherlands & Global
Of the 700 protesters involved, 500 successfully made it onto the runway tarmac.
More than 500 protesters, including Dutch rebels and Greenpeace activists, stormed Amsterdam's Schiphol Airport to block private jets on the runways. The action was in response to a government announcement that the airport would be limited to 440,000 flights per year, but that the private jets of the high-emission elite would be exempt.
The scale of the action was made possible by the growing XR network in Amsterdam, with 400 newly-trained rebels involved. These numbers proved crucial: the police had no way of stopping such a mass of people. Bikes that initially served as a means of transportation were used to form a dynamic blockade and distract police.
Rebels locked on to 13 jets and confined many more to their hangars. Usually, 40 jets take off per day at the site. Not a single one managed to during the 8-hour action.
This is what a Dutch blockade looks like! Photo: Reuters/Piroschka van de Wouw.
413 rebels were arrested, but all were released the same evening, despite some heavy-handed tactics by the police. Given the involvement with Greenpeace and the strong anti-elite messaging, the action was certainly a public success.
“The collaboration with Greenpeace showed that you can build this movement of movements…even if you have differences, it can lead to greater actions. Strategic alliances can pack a punch,” one rebel organiser said.
The positive response was not limited to the general public: 5 days later, 2 of 3 parties in the Amsterdam city council voted to push for both a ban on private jets and a kerosene tax at Schiphol Airport, of which they hold 20% of the shares. Victory!
The action also served as the spark for a coordinated global action disrupting private airports in France, Germany, Italy, Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, UK, and USA.
Rebels block private airports in Farnborough, UK (top left), North Carolina, USA (top right), Ibiza, Spain (bottom left) and Værnes, Norway (bottom right).
Hundreds of rebels, including more than 100 scientists from Scientist Rebellion, blockaded 11 international private airports to demand a ban on private jets and a tax on frequent fliers.
The actions were part of the Make Them Pay campaign, focused on addressing climate injustice and making the highest carbon emitters pay for their pollution. Private jets are 14 times more polluting than commercial aeroplanes and 50 times more than trains.
“Five years ago, the majority view was that it was unacceptable to be an activist and to speak out if you were a scientist,” said a NASA scientist and rebel involved in the blockade of a private jet terminal in North Carolina, USA. “I think the majority view now is you probably should be doing that because the science is so frightening.”
MAR 2021 - Present | Seoul, South Korea
Police struggle to remove rebels from the Democratic Party HQ. The banner reads: “The Democratic Party is a climate destruction party.”
What would you do if your government decided to build a new airport? What if multiple studies showed that this airport would bring no economic advantage and cause huge ecological destruction? And what if the government, fully aware of all that, decided to fast-track the project anyway for reasons of pure political prestige?
That was the scenario faced by XR South Korea back in early 2021, and their response was to launch the country’s first ever lock-on protest. A small group of rebels targeted the then-governing Democratic Party’s headquarters, chaining themselves to its entrance, and climbing onto the canopy above it.
The police reaction was harsh, as the video of the action shows, and so were the courts. The six rebels involved were collectively fined an eye-watering $15000. But XR South Korea saw their action as not only justifiable but necessary, and they fought back. They appealed the court's decision.
Police roughly restrain a rebel before he’s able to lock-on to the building’s entrance.
This led to a lengthy and exhausting trial process. After six court hearings across two years, the rebels now face a final hearing before sentencing on January 17th.
“We are not expecting the fine to be dropped, but we want to raise awareness of the issue and let people know that they are being deprived of democratic participation”, said a South Korean rebel involved.
XR South Korea have created a petition in English to encourage global solidarity for the rebels on trial, and show the government that their ecocide will not be ignored.
Rebel defendants and supporters attend the 3rd trial of their appeal in August.
Activist culture in South Korea is growing, which is important as it ranks as the 8th highest carbon emitting country in the world. “XR Catholics has recently been founded, and we are expecting the launch of Animal Rebellion in South Korea soon”, said our rebel source.
At the moment, however, XR South Korea actions are on hold due to a case of gender violence within the movement. The group is going through a painful process of reflection and rebuilding to ensure safety for all.
“We didn’t pause because actions and building a safer community aren’t compatible, but because it’s necessary to stop the harm from inside and heal first. How else could we tell the world to stop its self-destruction and start taking care of each other?”
11 NOV | Cape Town, South Africa: Rebels deliver a hard truth: believing that Carbon Capture & Storage will allow us to continue burning fossil fuels without damaging our planet is the same as believing that magical unicorns will suck carbon from the air.
15 NOV | Lilongwe, Malawi: 40 Scientists, Researchers and Environmentalists have delivered a petition to the President of Malawi urging his government to ensure that Africa’s needs are met during COP27.
21 NOV | London, UK: After COP27 was overrun with fossil fuel lobbyists, rebels joined a coalition of protesters to visit the offices of companies and organisations linked to the fossil fuel industry. One of the 13 sites targeted for the ‘cut the ties’ actions was insurance company Arch, which pulled out of insuring EACOP a week later. Victory!
25 NOV | Melbourne, Australia: Rebels marked Black Friday, a glorification of overconsumption, by staging a naked protest against fast fashion. There were rebel protests against Black Friday all over the world - including Germany, France, & Ireland.
3 DEC | Bologna, Italy: Days after at least 8 people died in a mudslide on the Italian island of Ischia, rebels from Ultima Generazione staged a protest before the painting ‘The Massacre of the Innocents’ in Bologna’s national gallery.
5 DEC | Berlin, Germany: Days before the UN Biodiversity Conference (COP15) starts in Canada, rebels demand their government spearhead a plan to stop the dramatic extinction of life on our planet. In the last 50 years, over 70% of the world's population of wild animal and plant species have been wiped out.
So many actions happened this month, we can’t fit them all into one newsletter. Head to NEWSLETTER XTRA to find out about amazing actions in Spain, France, Poland, India, Panama, Scotland, Israel, USA, Norway & more. NEWSLETTER XTRA: A feast for the eyes and extra fuel for the soul!
A protester brings the devastating floods of Pakistan and Nigeria to COP27.
This month’s Must Reads explore the debate over declaring 1.5°C dead, the failures of COP27, terrifying developments in solar geoengineering, and the real solution, shrinking the ecocidal aspects of our economy aka degrowth…
Byline Times: Stop Pretending We Can Limit Global Warming to 1.5°C.
Earth system scientist James Dyke argues that we must confront the fact that we will overshoot 1.5°C. Otherwise, we will lose public trust, and delay genuine solutions like rapid decarbonisation and radically reducing our energy and material consumption.
XR UK: What Happened At COP27? (49 mins)
XR Founder Clare Farrell and Scientist Rebellion climate scientist Dr Charlie Gardner discuss the inaction of COP27, the end of 1.5°C, the vast suffering this will cause, and the danger of letting this failure validate further inaction under a revised 2°C target.
New Yorker: Dimming the Sun to Cool the Planet is a Desperate Idea…
Environmentalist Bill McKibben summarises the increasing efforts to develop solar geoengineering, the unpredictable results, and the terrifying potential side effects.
Al Jazeera: Our Obsession with Economic Growth is Deadly. (25 mins)
Journalist Ali Rae investigates how our economy drives people in the Global North to overconsume, exploits people in the Global South, and devastates our planet. The answer is rejecting the idea of infinite economic growth, and embracing degrowth.
COP27 was the first COP I have attended in person. I saw it as an opportunity to gauge how much (if any) progress has been made, and to meet with other activists. However, I was anxious about what the situation would be like in Sharm El-Sheikh, in light of the Egyptian government’s oppressive attitude to civil protest.
I was relieved to find that we activists were able to cooperate and express ourselves relatively freely. I cooperated in actions and discussions with Scientist Rebellion, XR, and other groups from around the world. My main focus for actions was on cancelling Global South debt, and supporting Loss and Damage.
My fellow rebels and I staged sit-ins at hot-spots in the conference complex, holding placards, and raising our voices in expressions of solidarity and demands for climate justice. One message we repeated often was: ‘We meet for all, not for one’.
It was interesting to hear from leaders like Mia Mottley, António Guterres and Al Gore. It was encouraging to hear Al Gore say openly that every new fossil fuel investment is taking us above 1.5 and toward catastrophe. However, talking to activists in DRC about the oil fields still being opened there (among others across Africa) was depressing: their activism hasn’t changed that situation.
I left the Red Sea coast with some hope for a future based on renewables. But I also know that this will demand huge change, and we are out of time. In 2022, Nigeria, Burundi, Rwanda, Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia, among other African nations, suffered severe droughts and floods, including while COP was taking place. These destroy lives, homes, and agriculture, which is a major source of food and employment.
We must urgently take our foot off the fossil fuel pedal. If we do not, we will create millions more climate refugees and destroy millions more lives.
Now, COP15 is taking place in Montreal, and I would love to carry out actions to communicate the biodiversity crisis. We have already lost so many species, and I feel that I have lost much of my ecological identity: I don’t see as many animals as I used to where I live, and the trees I grew up with are disappearing.
In XR Rwanda, we don’t have the funds to stage these actions – but my team and I are planning one anyway, because we must speak out.
After COP27, I reflected on a story I had heard a rabbi tell at an interfaith meeting. A boy was holding a bird in his hands, and he asked his mother, “Is it alive or dead?” She said, “I don’t know, but the life of the bird is in your hands.” This stayed with me. It seems to describe our situation very well.
If you know (or are) a rebel somewhere in the world with a story to tell, get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Katharine Hayhoe’s latest book offers salvation or disappointment, depending on your perspective. On balance, I recommend it, but it’s not all things to all rebels.
Dr. Hayhoe is an American climate scientist who has built her career in fine-grained modelling for community-level planning. She also speaks on the importance of climate action. As an evangelical Christian, she has cultural kinship with many climate sceptics, and she uses that kinship to reach out and communicate.
Saving Us is a practical how-to on finding kinship, on cutting through apathy and fear. Meet people where they are, use effective, research-based communication methods, and more people will jump on board—and maybe we can make real changes together.
That’s the hope. What Dr. Hayhoe doesn’t address is that systemic injustice is part of the picture. People with power who are actively hostile to climate action are part of the picture. The advice offered in Saving Us will not, all by itself, save us. That’s the discouraging part.
But other tools exist, and we can and should use all of them. And if you find yourself in conversation with someone who seems sceptical, it will be good to have a manual on finding common ground.
We can’t stop the future, but here’s a chance for writers of all ages to imagine and help shape the world they’d want to live in. Extinction Rebellion Wordsmiths is opening its second round of Solarpunk storytelling following last year’s successful showcase.
Light up your imaginations, picture a world where we’re more in harmony with nature and ourselves, and have found the technology to help that happen – that is Solarpunk in action!
If you’re new to Solarpunk, read some of our favourite entries from last year. If you’re familiar with it… start imagining!
For more information and inspiration, head to our Solarpunk Showcase 2023 website or email us at email@example.com
Gabby’s First Kiss: A Solarpunk Showcase winner. Image by Rita Fei.
The XR Global Blog has published more quality content over the last month, including...
Solarpunk Showcase 2022: Gabby’s First Kiss
This Solarpunk short story written by Joe Tankersley and with original artwork by Rita Fei was a winning entry in the ‘19 & over’ category.
Hot Take #5: Soil Gets A Break
Hot Takes are short-form reactions to global eco-stories affecting us right now. This one explores a new report backed by global food and drink giants that suggests the transition to sustainable agriculture is being taken seriously. But should we trust it?
Land Reclamation: A Little-known Environmental Catastrophe
Land reclamation is the process of constructing fabricated land from oceans, seas, rivers and lake beds. Relentless economic growth is driving it, and environmental disaster and human misery are the results.
2 DEC | Sydney, Australia: A Fireproof Australia activist is sentenced to 15 months in prison after peacefully blocking traffic in one lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge for less than half an hour. The draconian punishment has alarmed the UN.
Thank you for reading, rebel. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Welcome to Newsletter XTRA, where everything we couldn’t fit into the main Global Newsletter has its moment to shine. This month we cover actions in Spain, Austria, France, Poland, India, Panama, Scotland, Israel, USA, Norway, and more…
5 NOV | Madrid, Spain: Activists from Futuro Vegetal glue themselves to the frames of two Goya paintings called ‘The Majas’ and write ‘+1.5 °C’ between them. The Majas portray the same reclining woman clothed and then naked.
5 NOV | Linz, Austria: In the face of a massive police deployment, rebels continue to protest against the construction of the A26 motorway, a fossil fuel mega project.
5 NOV | Toulouse, France: 2 Dernière Rénovation activists interrupt a rugby match.
10 NOV | Poznań, Poland: Fake blood is poured over rebels to condemn the use of gas fields in nearby Sierosław. "This blood is artificial, but it symbolises our future, which is painted in the darkest colours". Photo: Marysia Kołodziej
11 NOV | Lucknow, India: Activists with Fridays For Future stage a protest.
13 NOV | Panama City, Panama: Debt For Climate activists march through the capital. The protest finished with a die-in on the city’s streets.
14 NOV | Glasgow, Scotland: Rebels break windows at Barclays bank’s new offices. The bank is the biggest funder of fossil fuel in Europe and provides money to develop Rosebank, a vast, untapped oil and gas field in the North Sea. The action was one of over 100 to take place at Barclays branches across the UK. Thousands of rebels took part, and 25 were arrested, including 3 just for handing out leaflets.
14 NOV | Tel Aviv, Israel: Phoenix Insurance Company invests pension money in fossil fuels, so rebels blocked the entrance to their offices and glued themselves to the floor.
18 NOV | Melbourne, Australia: Rebels rally outside the office of their local politician to demand more protection for koalas and the forests they live in. The marsupials are now listed as endangered in parts of the country.
18 NOV | Berlin, Germany: XR joins other groups to protest against the imprisonment of 19 Last Generation activists in Munich. One prisoner went on hunger strike, and many activists joined him in solidarity. All 19 activists were finally released a week later, after nearly a month in custody without trial.
19 NOV | Bologna, Italy: Rebels occupy a major bridge for 6 hours, converting it into a social space for yoga and dancing. The action was part of a three-day rebellion against the city’s regional government, which is busy expanding motorways instead of addressing the climate crisis.
23 NOV | Leiden, Netherlands: Rebels take (naked) action at Naturalis Biodiversity Center. The rebels stood next to a mammoth skeleton to highlight the threat to humanity posed by the climate and ecological crisis.
28 NOV | Europe & North America: Tyre Extinguisher activists in 8 countries deflated the tyres of 900 SUVs in the biggest action against high-carbon vehicles in history.
28 NOV | Boston, USA: Rebels hold a funeral procession to mourn the inevitable loss of life after the failure of COP 27. Participants carried ecologically-themed light boxes to the home of the US Special Presidential Envoy for Climate.
28 NOV | London, UK: Just Stop Oil activists stop for a drink at a pub after around 80 police officers and 6 police vans followed them on their ‘slow walk’ through the streets of London. The new strategy of slowly walking with traffic rather than blocking it is just as disruptive but less arrestable - the perfect recipe. 28 activists are still in prison in the UK, and police have started arresting journalists covering their actions.
30 NOV | Trondheim, Norway: Four Just Stop Oil activists block a main road, calling for the Norwegian government to stop all oil exploration.
2 DEC | Sandton, South Africa: XR Vaal join with other climate justice groups to march on the energy company Sasol during its AGM. About 250 activists called on the energy giant to abandon greenwashing and attempt genuine decarbonization. After the protest, shareholders voted in favour of “climate change future plans”.
Palm Jumeirah is a set of artificial islands located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). More sand than you could even imagine was dredged from the sea floor to mould the islands into a palm tree shape. The crescent-shaped breakwater was built using blasted mountain rock. These islands were not created out of necessity. They were designed to cater to the global rich. Glitzy hotels dot the skyline, luxury villas line the beaches and opulent restaurants cater to the 0.1%. A penthouse lounge can have a bar-scene-from-Star-Wars vibe, albeit with $100 steaks and $1,600 bottles of alcohol. By day yachts and speedboats surround this cesspool of decadence. By night the clubs drip with champagne.
The endless calls for “growth, growth, growth” are driving projects like Palm Jumeirah around the world. But this is creating environmental disaster and immiserating human livelihoods in the process.
Palm Jumeirah photo by giggel, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Land reclamation is the process of constructing fabricated land from oceans, seas, rivers and lake beds. Water can be drained from shallow areas, or the bed raised, making the land available for development. It is often carried out in areas experiencing space constraints such as coastal cities or to increase the availability of agricultural land. The UAE is mostly desert, and cities such as Dubai have seen population increases as the economy expanded. It may not seem unreasonable for these places to broaden their natural limits to provide accommodation and livelihoods for their people.
But land reclamation has severe environmental consequences. It threatens those same livelihoods it’s supposed to serve. Our planet relies on these coastal ecosystems for biodiversity and greenhouse gas absorption. And at the root of this artificial expansion is remorseless economic growth. Land reclamation caters to a global economy that requires more shipping, more flights, more oil and more stuff. Palm Jumeirah is an egregious example of a regime that washes its reputation on the shores of a tourists’ playground and batters the environment in the process.
The Gulf has a unique marine ecosystem due to its shallow waters, arid conditions and warm sea temperature. The coral reefs and mangrove forests support fish, dugongs and turtles. This ecosystem already exists in extreme conditions and it doesn’t take much for a tipping point to be reached. Researchers found the water temperature around the Palm had increased by 7.5%. Reefs degrade in these conditions. Warming waters also cause sea levels to rise and the irony is that the Palm cannot handle the expected rises that will occur over this century.
Palm Jebel Ali is a project with similar aims to Palm Jumeirah but 50% larger. Over 8 km2 of natural reef habitat was destroyed during its construction. These projects prevent normal water flow from the sea which has serious consequences for marine life. Sea turtles, for example, have become endangered by reclamation.
Another irony is how this land reclamation is being funded through fossil fuels. The UAE became rich by selling planet-destroying oil and gas and then used this money to further wreck the natural environment. Worldwide, land reclamation is often specifically for fossil fuel extraction or to enable its trading. Carbon-intensive infrastructure such as airports, shipping and factories, and agricultural development, are also driving the creation of artificial land.
Rotterdam has Europe’s largest seaport. Over 40% of the goods passing through are oil, coal and gas. The port stretches over 40km and projects into the North Sea through the reclaimed Maasvlakte area. When construction began in 1965 the De Beer nature reserve was one of Europe’s most important breeding grounds for the seabirds of the North Sea. But the development of Maasvlakte destroyed it. Reclamation also caused the disappearance of important ecological features of the landscape. Riverbanks were turned into quays and concrete debris. Maasvlakte 2 expanded the port by reclaiming land adjoining the original Maasvlakte. It was initially rejected on environmental grounds and only proceeded thanks to compensation agreements for the ecological harm it would cause.
Land reclamation in Singapore has enabled the country to build one of the world’s busiest ports. Much of the global supply of oil passes through here. The Jurong Port tank terminals boast of their state-of-the-art facilities for oil refinement. Before reclamation Singapore had thriving ecosystems of wetlands, mangroves and coral reefs. Now the local environment has been devastated by the artificial expansion of the coastline. 95% of mangroves and 60% of coral reefs are lost, partly driven by the fossil fuel trade. Species like the dragonfly Indothemis limbata are critically endangered.
The environmental crimes committed in the Niger Delta have been well exposed. Thousands of oil spillages have laid waste to forests and wildlife. An investigation concluded that Shell was complicit, not only in this ecocide, but also in the murder of protestors campaigning against it. Much of the oil and gas development has depended on land reclamation. Exploration, laying of pipelines and wellhead construction have required dredging of swamps and clearing of vegetation.
Oil spill at Goi Creek, Nigeria, August 2010. Credit: Friends of the Earth Netherlands
With one of the longest coastlines in the world and a high population density, China has embarked on huge land reclamation projects. Shanghai built an airport on tidal flats (level muddy surfaces next to an estuary) in the Pudong district and artificially expanded nearby islands to develop its port. The wetland ecosystem in Pudong has collapsed with only 8.9% remaining. Reclamation activities around Chongming island in the city led to massive declines of Tundra swans. In 1986–1989 3,500 were counted compared to only 51 in 2000/2001. To give larger vessels access to Shanghai’s port, large amounts of the seafloor were dredged at the mouth of the Yangtze River. This resulted in an 87.6% decrease in the number of species of animals living on the seafloor.
Much of China’s east coast has been reclaimed for port development and industry. The Shuangtaizi Estuary of the city of Panjin saw a loss of 60% of its wetlands over 15 years. Qingdao port development destroyed valuable ecosystems. Reclamation projects in the South China Sea caused species like juvenile Mugil ophuysen fish to suffer mass mortality.
Factories and manufacturing enterprises line the reclaimed land of Tokyo Bay. Large parts of the ecosystem have been damaged by the concrete and landfill required for development. Mantis shrimp have almost disappeared and attempted conservation efforts have failed to lead to the species’ recovery. Across the Sea of Japan, South Korea’s Saemangeum land reclamation project has turned 400 km2 of sea into land for factories, golf courses and water treatment plants. This area used to be an important feeding ground for globally threatened birds and has destroyed the wetlands they rely on. The spoon-billed sandpiper and spotted greenshank are now facing extinction.
A spoon-billed sandpiper, Tareq's photography, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Indonesia and Malaysia have seen rapid clearing of peatlands for agriculture. These areas are permanently flooded and characterised by soils made up of dead and decaying plants. This accumulates over centuries and forms peat, an important carbon sink. Indonesia has 210,000 km2 of peatlands and 7% of Malaysia’s total land area contains peat soils. Over 90% of these areas are seeing declines and 40% of Indonesia’s mangrove forests have been lost. Often peatlands are reclaimed through controlled fires but this can lead to devastating greenhouse gas emissions and pollution. Peat is 90% water and 10% organic matter, and highly flammable. When on fire it can smoulder underground for weeks. In 2015 major fires in Indonesia released more greenhouse gas emissions than Germany’s annual emissions and triggered respiratory illnesses in half a million people.
Land reclamation is also for the exploitation of palm oil. Indonesia and Malaysia are the world’s largest producers of this product. And it’s in everything. The goods we see in rich country supermarkets: laundry items, toiletries, lipstick, ice cream, instant noodles; all contain palm oil.
Japan and South Korea have also reclaimed land for farming. The Isahaya Bay wetland in south-west Japan was one of the country’s largest. It was a refuge for migratory birds, and 282 species of animals were identified on the seafloor. In 1997, completion of a dike drained the wetland making it available for agriculture. This wrecked the ecosystem by worsening sea water quality and soil. Many species including mudskipper fish have become extinct.
South Korea’s Chungcheongnam-do province lost more than 70 km2 of tidal flats due to reclaimed land for farming. Coastal communities are now more vulnerable to storms and sea-level rise.
Isahaya Bay, photo by Houjyou-Minori, CC BY 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
A common thread throughout these examples is the loss of wetlands. They are often threatened by reclamation as they lie next to seas, rivers and lakes, and have a shallow shore making construction easier. Their ecosystems sustain the earth’s life support systems. They are carbon sinks with areas like peatlands storing 30% of all land-based carbon. As the climate has worsened they are becoming even more important for carbon storage. Nearly 40% of all species rely on wetlands making them crucial for global biodiversity. Yet 35% of the world’s wetlands were lost between 1970 and 2015. What we’re losing is more valuable than what we’re gaining. This has coincided with extraordinary economic growth as world GDP increased from $24 trillion to $108 trillion in 45 years. The tales of this growth are concrete paving over floodplains, swamps drained of their water and coastal marshes dredged to oblivion.
Destruction of wetlands on the Arthur Kill Waterway in New Jersey, National Archives at College Park, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Humanity also depends on wetlands for food. Rice is a staple of diets worldwide and grown in wetland areas. Before oil exploration inhabitants of the Niger Delta made a living as farmers, fishermen and hunters. The Delta supports the growing of rice, fruits and vegetables. Wetlands also protect us from storms and floods through rain absorption and buffering of the sea. Mangroves and salt marshes help shield 60% of the world’s population living along the world’s coastlines. Land reclamation leads to sea-level rise that can be much higher than background levels of local and global rises. This land will likely be impacted first when the climate worsens. As the world races to consume more we are cannibalising the very systems that give us life.
In 1996 a photographer, Michael E. Stanley, visited Isahaya Bay before reclamation. He described an area teeming with life as frogs, crabs and other fauna zipped around this precious wetland. He returned a year later after the area was drained. This is what he described:
The gata (tidal mud) had dried out and cracked deeply. The remains of small animals were scattered across what had been a galaxy of life. Nothing moved; the clicking, gurgling sounds of the crabs and the cries of gulls and terns were replaced by an occasional rustle of wind, nothing more.
The government’s commitment to endless growth forced this project through despite it being unnecessary. The project was initially conceived as a way to increase rice production. When that proved false the argument switched to being about satisfying beef consumption. The uptick on a graph was more important than safeguarding nature.
With unrestricted growth and land reclamation, the trauma of Isahaya Bay is being repeated around the world. Pollution is increasing and biodiversity is declining, putting our world at greater risk of catastrophe. The term “land reclamation” implies we are taking back what is rightfully ours and another example of how the words we use reflect ecocidal mindsets. We cannot claim the entire earth in order to satisfy neverending consumption. The natural world needs greater protection so it can sustain and protect us.
From the gluttony of Palm Jumeirah to the fossil fuel-enabling ports of Rotterdam and Singapore, the world’s cash generating machine is creating existential risks. We must reclaim our planet from the clutches of money. We must reclaim nature for the millions of species that support life on earth. We must reclaim our communities from globalised power. We must reclaim democratic control through citizens’ assemblies.
Join XR now to reclaim our right to a healthy environment and society.
Stephen writes about the climate crisis on his Substack.
Image courtesy of Dylan de Jonge on Unsplash
The climate and ecological emergency (CEE) is a massive and daunting challenge. So in moments when positive news arrives, the healthy thing to do is pounce on it. The Sustainable Market Initiative’s new report, ‘Scaling Regenerative Farming: An Action Plan’, is one such moment, because it represents a significant absorption of radical environmental solutions by mainstream players. The question is, can we trust the mainstream players this time?
Agriculture is the world’s largest industry, occupying approximately half of Earth’s habitable land and providing more than one billion people with a livelihood. However, contemporary industrial methods are placing agriculture and food supplies at risk by attacking ecosystems and degenerating land via chemicals, monocultures, and soil disruption. In addition, factors such as land-clearing, gasoline-powered machinery, and livestock methane emissions all contribute to climate change, which is in turn reducing global farming productivity.
Regenerative farming can remedy this by working with nature while growing plants, so that farming becomes sustainable. Methods for regenerative farming vary because every ecosystem is different, but common themes include keeping soil covered between harvests and eliminating synthetic, chemical fertilizers and herbicides.
The Sustainable Market Initiative (SMI) was launched by the then-Prince of Wales, at the 2020 World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, in a bid to ‘enable the private sector to accelerate the transition to a sustainable future’. Its members are all chiefs of their respective companies and include Larry Fink (Blackrock), Bernard Looney (BP), Punit Renjen (Deloitte), Grant Reid (Mars), Ramon Laguarta (Pepsico), and Stella McCartney; it doesn’t get more mainstream than that, but please try to withhold your skepticism for just a few more paragraphs.
Image courtesy of Abenteuer Albanien on Unsplash
The SMI is divided into task forces and this new report is a product of the Agribusiness Task Force. That’s Mars, Bayer, HowGood, Indigo Agriculture, McCain Foods, McDonald’s, Mondelez, Olam, PepsiCo, the Sustainable Food Trust, Waitrose & Partners, and Yara International. In our March 2021 article, What is Regenerative Agriculture and Can it Feed the World?, we noted with hope how the North American food giant General Mills was researching the scalability of regenerative agriculture. Extinction Rebellion would be among the first in line to criticize the diabolical environmental records of companies like McDonald’s or PepsiCo, but there’s no denying their scale; to see such massive corporations getting behind regenerative agriculture is monumental.
The SMI is not simply acknowledging regenerative agriculture, however. In this report, it’s trying to understand why regenerative agriculture is not spreading as rapidly as the CEE demands and do something about it. Citing a global regenerative farming conversion target of 40% by 2030, the report summarises the findings of three 14-week studies. These were conducted at a commercial contract UK potato farm, a smallhold basmati rice farm in India, and a mid-sized, family-run wheat farm in the USA.
What’s striking about these directly quoted findings from ‘Scaling Regenerative Farming’ is that they might sound quite familiar to you:
“We must shift our mindset”
“Make decisions based on the balance of evidence, not precise costs and valuations”
“Get better at collaboration”
“Develop new models, not only sustainability teams”
“Be guided by local specificity and cultural awareness”
In its own formal and comfortably worded way, the SMI has echoed what you’ll hear if you spend a couple of hours at a climate justice protest... we can’t help wondering if the SMI has realized that yet.
Image courtesy of the XR Global Media Library
This report is impressively detailed and ultimately practical in nature. The Sustainable Market Initiative sounds like an expensive greenwashing factory (it counts Shell and BP among its members), but it’s clear that the SMI task force behind this particular report is desperate to turbocharge farming reform.
Why? Because unlike some polluting industries, such as plastics or fossil fuels, agriculture will eat itself if it does not become sustainable. If farming continues on its current trajectories, difficulties in growing food will spread. In other words, the industry's fundamental reason for existing is threatened. The recent call for a mass shift to precision fermentation would theoretically render the contemporary agricultural system obsolete, while vertical farming points to diversification, but the biggest threat to the world's largest industry is its own degenerative practices.
Image courtesy of Giulia Ferla via XR Global Media Library
Imagine if a task force of huge energy companies assembled to figure out why renewables aren’t replacing fossil fuels as rapidly as the CEE demands, then took logical, practical action? This is extremely unlikely to happen, because huge energy companies have massive, temptingly profitable reserves of fossil fuels at their fingertips; agriculture does not have that luxury.
Whatever their motivations may be, we should be cautiously optimistic that many of those who control our food supplies are taking the future seriously.
Download the Sustainable Market Initiative’s ‘Scaling Regenerative Farming’ executive summary here or the full report here.
The XR Wordsmiths' 2021 Solarpunk Storytelling Showcase was Extinction Rebellion’s first global short story contest for all ages.
The project rides the wave of the Solarpunk movement and grew from the belief that imagining a better future is the first step towards creating it.
The power of collective and radical imagination helps to inspire action against unjust, destructive futures by actively building towards the future we want to see.
The 2023 Showcase is live and ready for your entries! Follow the link here to discover how you can get involved, or email the team at email@example.com to find out more.
The following story - "Gabby's First Kiss" was a winning entry in the "19 & over category", and was written by Joe Tankersley, with original artwork by Rita Fei.
Gabby nearly knocked her mother over as she rushed through the kitchen and out the front door. Outside, she paused to look over the horizon. Her home, like all the homes in Bahía del Paraíso, sat high in the air; protected from the floods that were a regular part of life in their small coastal community. From her perch, she could easily see all the way to the bay. In the early morning sunlight, the mangroves along the water’s edge glowed as if they were on fire. Beyond them, the crystal-clear blue water sparkled.
Illustration for XR Wordsmiths by Rita Fei
There had been a storm the night before. Not a very big one. The kind that Pipo dismissed as nothing more than a pequeño mosquito before going back to playing dominos with Uncle Eduardo. But even minor storms could leave behind unexpected treasures, so it was definitely worth checking out.
She skipped along the boardwalk that connected all the houses in the village. Gabby’s Tía Maria, the community’s designer, had adamantly opposed the flying walkways. She argued that “flimsy bridges” would completely compromise the integrity of her carefully planned resilient design.
Everyone understood the importance of strong homes, but these were practical people. They argued that it made no sense to climb down forty-five steps and then right back up just to visit the next-door neighbor. "What about the old people?" they had cried. "Or the mothers with little children?"
Tía Maria finally gave in, but only after they had come up with a design that made it possible to detach the bridges whenever a hurricane approached. Gabby loved the bridges. Scampering from house to house made her feel like a creature living high in the trees of an exotic jungle.
Gabby had recently turned thirteen. Like so many girls her age, she had experienced a growth spurt that left her tall and gangly. She navigated the swinging walkways with the loose grace of a child on the brink of becoming a confident young woman for whom every day would be a new adventure.
Her partner in those adventures was Danh. Even though they were the same age, she was nearly a head taller than him. Where she was lean and willowy, he was solid and compact. But he was the only boy her age who could keep up with her. They never missed the chance to search for treasures after a storm.
Standing on the deck that surrounded Danh’s house, she peered inside his open bedroom window and called out quietly, “Danh, you awake?”
“’Bout time, em gái,” his booming response came from behind.
Startled, she spun around to see Danh, floating on his hoverboard, just above her head. “Jerk,” she said, and swatted playfully at him.
He deftly maneuvered the board out of reach and smiled.
“Race you down,” he challenged and then disappeared as he sent the board into a steep dive.
Gabby ran for the stairs. She hit every third step on the way down, getting to the bottom as fast as she could, where a smirking Danh leaned casually against the rail.
“You cheat,” she complained.
“You just hate that you’re too klutzy to fly a board.”
“I can still beat you in a fair race,” Gabby shouted suddenly. She dashed off toward the water.
Danh watched her go and then hopped on his board. It didn’t take him long to catch up. He slowed to match her pace, and the two of them followed the paths that zigzagged through the parklike greenspace that separated the homes from the bay.
When they finally reached the beach, Gabby dropped to the sand, out of breath. Danh circled her twice before stepping off the board. The board idled by his side, ready to follow wherever he went. After a few deep gulps of air, Gabby sat up and surveyed the beach.
“I already did a zoom-by. Nothing interesting,” Danh offered.
“Bummer,” Gabby replied.
That was life as a storm pirate. Most of the time you only found little odds and ends, usually from the homes destroyed when the old barrier islands disappeared. Sometimes you got lucky and scored major treasure. Earlier in the summer, after a particularly big storm, they had discovered an ancient-looking log floating just offshore. Gabby’s mother told them it looked like part of a Bodhi tree that might have been carried by the storm all the way from the Ivory Coast of Africa.
They had debated long and hard before deciding what to do with their newfound treasure. It was a point of pride among the community to reuse everything, even trash blown in by the storms. The village Remakers repurposed the found objects into works of art, benches, and even playground structures that dotted the village.
Danh had imagined the log would make an impressive totem pole, but Gabby argued for something useful. In the end, they had compromised. With the help of Danh’s dad, the best carver in the village, they turned the log into a bench with an intricately detailed scene telling the story of the Bodhi tree.
Even though they didn’t expect to find anything nearly as exciting today, they still walked the beach. The tide was going out, so they wandered among the mangroves—primordial trees with twisted roots dipping in and out of the water. Gabby and Danh meandered along until they came to the village’s picnic pavilion. Their bench was just beyond, tucked away in a stand of tall bamboo. They sat down on the bench, close enough that their knees touched. The feeling sent a tiny tingle up Gabby’s spine.
“So, whadya doing today?” she asked.
Danh, apparently completely unaware of the physical tension in the air, replied nonchalantly, “Working on one of your aunt’s bio-digester stations.”
Gabby laughed. “I warned you about asking Tía Maria to be your mentor. Once she gets hold of you, there’s no getting away.”
Danh pulled a handful of leaves off the bamboo growing next to the bench. He began weaving them together as they talked. “No poop shall go unscooped.”
“Eh, gross,” Gabby hit Danh’s knee with hers. “Now you’re just trying to be disgusting.”
Danh finished twisting the leaves together and held up an intricately woven bamboo ring. He handed it to Gabby and said, “All part of the great circle of life, em gái.”
She took it from him and just stared at it. What was this supposed to mean? Was Danh giving her a ring? Or was it just another one of his goofy jokes?
“So, what you up to today?” Danh asked.
“Aqua harvest with Mom.” Gabby’s mother managed the community’s aquafarm. It was was one of the village’s most successful projects, providing food for the residents and a source of income.
The water in the bay was cleaner than it had been in over a hundred years. With a little help from local marine biologists, it had been easy to re-establish the oyster and scallop beds and bring back the fish and shrimp populations. The return of the seafood harvests was a reminder of what had brought many of Gabby’s and Danh’s ancestors to this coast originally. Today, that natural bounty was enhanced by the latest sustainable aquaculture methods, and the village was once again a prime supplier of fresh seafood to the surrounding communities.
Working with her Mom, Gabby could earn badges in marine biology and aqua-ag. She thought she might even do a little marine science one day. For now, she mainly liked hanging out with her mother.
Seafood was just one of the community’s agricultural bounties. There were box gardens that lined the community pathways where anyone could pick a handful of herbs to cook, small plots near every house, and even a state-of-the-art aeroponics greenhouse. Inside the greenhouse, vegetables literally grew in the air, their bare roots hanging down like stringy hair. Between the year-round warm weather and cutting-edge agriculture technology, the community produced more than enough food to feed itself and to send to nearby markets.
“Oh, hey. S’posed to ask if you want to come to Pipo’s birthday party on Friday. He’s turning ninety-five, so Mom and Tía Maria are going all out.”
“For sure,” Danh exclaimed. “I mean, if it’s cool with you and all.”
Gabby tried to respond nonchalantly. “Whatever, it’s nice to have somebody my age around, you know. They may even make ropa vieja. It’s Pipo’s favorite and Mom said she knew you liked it.”
“With real beef? Last time your mom made that, I pigged out. Kinda surprised she’d invite me back.”
“Oh, she thinks you’re special.” Gabby smiled.
In fact, Sophia and Tía Maria had taken to referring to Danh as Gabby’s “special friend.” Gabby wasn’t sure how she felt about that. Oh, she knew their relationship was way different, but that didn’t mean she wanted her mother to be broadcasting it to everyone.
They spent the next few minutes sitting in silence, something they often did. At first these pauses had felt awkward, but lately Gabby had realized that they were special moments—sharing the natural beauty of this place they were so lucky to call home.
Pipo, out for his morning walk, interrupted their reverie. He rarely missed a day and always wore the same outfit—a perfectly pressed guayabera shirt, linen slacks, and his trademark Panama hat. He stopped when he saw them.
“Why are you niños not in school?” he demanded.
Gabby blushed and tried to explain to him, for the hundredth time, that it was not like the old days when sitting in a classroom was the only place you could learn.
When she had finally finished her explanation, Pipo shook his head in bewilderment. “Come walk with me, nieta.”
Gabby gave Danh a quick look and got up. “So, see you Friday, here in the park.”
“It’s a date,” he replied, hopping off the bench. When he realized what he had said, he stammered quickly, “Gotta fly. Got poop to scoop.” With that, he jumped on the hoverboard and zipped off.
She watched him disappear. A voice in her head was shrieking: A date? Is that really what he had said? She wasn’t sure if she was scared, excited, or both. She was so distracted that she didn’t even notice that Pipo had continued his walk without her.
She ran to catch up and took his hand as they walked toward the shore. Pipo began to reminisce. Walking with one of his grandchildren and telling them stories of the past was his favorite thing to do. Gabby was frequently his audience, and she had heard most of his stories many times.
“You know, Gabriela, we used to live right here on this very spot. Our home wasn’t fancy, but it had been in our family for seven generations, ever since our people first came here to fish.
Then came the summer of the great storms. Six hurricanes in less than three months. It seemed like we spent all our time getting ready for a storm or cleaning up after one; sometimes doing both at the same time. The last storm, the biggest one of all, hit right here. The entire village washed away. Destruido. Your abuela cried and cried for days.”
The thought of Gabby’s grandmother losing everything made her so sad every time she heard this story, even though she knew it had a happy ending.
Over the years, life after the storms had developed into a predictable pattern. First came the clean-up, sometimes taking weeks or months, then the insurance companies and the government would help them rebuild. But this time the insurance companies didn’t come. They said there had been too many storms and they were out of money. The state’s catastrophe fund was empty, and there were no funds available from the federal government. For the first time, the residents didn’t know how they were going to rebuild.
That’s when Tía Maria came home. She had been working up north as an urban planner. Under her leadership, a group of homeowners approached the city with a bold plan. In exchange for assistance in building new homes, the citizens would turn over their land along the shore. Everyone agreed that the old ways weren’t going to work anymore, especially as the sea levels continued to rise and the warmer ocean waters spawned more violent storms.
After months of negotiations, the officials learned what Gabby’s family had long known; you don’t argue with Tía Maria. And that was how Bahía del Paraíso was born.
In exchange for the coastline property, the city gave the residents vacant farmland next to the former village. The land—long ago over-farmed and abandoned—was considered worthless. But when Tía Maria got her hands on it, she got to work building a world class resilient village.
In just five years, the community reached their goal of having a zero-carbon footprint. In fact, they had a net positive effect on the environment. Those improvements meant that the residents were healthier and happier.
Important people from around the world came to visit them now. The United Nations had even designated Bahía del Paraíso a sustainable world site, and Tía Maria was always being invited to important conferences to tell their story.
Pipo stopped walking. Gabby knew they had reached his favorite spot on the beach. Thirty yards offshore, an enormous, brightly colored sea dragon rose out of the water. The dragon’s scales were made from ceramic tiles, salvaged from Pipo’s old home. Tiles that Gabby’s ancestors brought all the way from Cuba.
Gabby thought it was pretty neat that something from her family’s past was now part of her future. What was even cooler to a thirteen-year-old was that the Remakers had rigged the dragon to use bio-gas to breathe real fire. Of course, Tía Maria only allowed them to light it on special occasions.
Pipo’s birthday would be one of those special occasions. Gabby imagined the scene. The dragon that represented her family, breathing fire under a star-filled sky, moonlight reflecting off the water. It just might be the perfect time and place for a first kiss.
A Finnish rebel blockades a pulp mill that will turn forest trees into packaging.
This issue: Finland Rebels | NYC Rebels | Australia Rebels | Just Stop Oil UK |
COP27 has begun, but expectations are at rock bottom.
On top of the usual charge sheet (Global North intransigence, oil lobbyist interloping, serial broken promises) comes the fact that this year’s UN climate summit will be effectively greenwashing a police state.
Egypt’s military government has killed, imprisoned and tortured thousands of peaceful activists since its rise to power in 2013. Protest is de facto illegal in the country. COP27 will be held in a region reserved for tourists and a tiny elite, which the Egyptian public cannot access, and where foreign activists must book slots to protest in a car park.
If COP27 manages to achieve anything of note we will cover it in our next issue, but for now we have much more promising things to focus on, like global rebellion.
One rebel koala is plucked from his tripod outside a state-owned logging company in Melbourne, Australia.
In Action Highlights we report on how Finnish rebels targeted the logging companies turning their forests into packaging, how New York rebels targeted the CEOs of the biggest fossil fuel financiers in the world, and how Australian rebels targeted loggers, financiers and more in not one but two major rebellions across the island’s south coast.
We also dedicate this month’s Solidarity Corner to Just Stop Oil, who have just completed four weeks of daily disruption in London. The group’s provocative tactics, including throwing soup at (glass-protected) artworks, have drawn a lot of criticism, even from supporters of XR.
But the evidence shows that negative coverage of peaceful protesters doesn’t harm the underlying cause. Instead, it creates space for debate of the wider issues and increases support for the more moderate flanks of the same cause.
A Just Stop Oil activist is arrested in London, one of 718 arrests in the last month.
We live in a surreal world where a painting being apparently damaged causes more outrage than hundreds of thousands of people losing their lives and livelihoods to floods and drought in Pakistan and Somalia.
The Global North, through its historic and continuing use of fossil fuels, has directly caused that intense and ongoing suffering. It should weigh on all of us, and instead of condemning the protesters harmlessly highlighting it, we should aim our ire at the politicians in Egypt who are grossly perpetuating the injustice.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who provide grants, training, and tech to help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work.
5 - 14 OCT | Helsinki/Espoo/Kemi, Finland
A rebel blockades a huge pulp mill built to turn forest trees into packaging.
After a night of poetry, music and dance in a Helsinki park, the rebels got to work. 300 of them blocked a major highway beside their parliament, 46 were arrested by police throughout the day, and the action made it onto the evening news. The ‘Rebellion for Nature’ was off to a rowdy start.
Ecological decline and the climate crisis go hand in hand, and Elokapina (XR Finland) focused their autumn rebellion on protecting Finland’s forests, empowering the indigenous Saami people whose culture depends on them, and ending factory farming, which the government still subsidises. Lastly, they demanded Finland pay its climate debts to the Global South.
30 rebels rallied outside a pulp mill in Lapland, still being constructed by Metsä Group, a logging corporation that turns old-growth trees into disposable packaging. Once complete, it will be the largest pulp mill in the Northern Hemisphere. Police were present but did not intervene. After blocking traffic to the site all day, the rebels were allowed to walk home.
Rebels blockaded highways, marched through supermarkets, occupied logging companies, and took over a bridge to highlight Finland’s fragile ecology.
The next day, Elokapina launched simultaneous blockades of Metsä Group’s, and two other major logging company’s headquarters. Rebels swarmed into the entrances and lobbies, gluing themselves to walls and silently holding signs with their demands. The demonstration at Metsä Group lasted more than 6 hours.
Funeral marches were held in outlets of two major supermarkets for fuelling animal-based food production, and Red Rebels joined a slow march down the stairs of the Finnish parliament building to highlight the many native animal species in danger of extinction.
The rebellion closed as it had begun, with hundreds of rebels blockading the road in front of the Finnish parliament. With silence from the government, the blockade moved to a major bridge, where rebels chanted in solidarity as police arrested dozens of their comrades locked together in a symbolic circle.
More than 700 rebels participated in the rebellion, with a quarter of those newly trained-up recruits. There were fewer arrests this time, thanks to a tactical shift away from blockades to more diverse actions, but the campaign still attracted extensive media attention. And this time there were no run-ins with neo-Nazis.
24 - 29 OCT | New York, USA
Protesters dump coal across BlackRock’s lobby floor. Photo: Adrian Childress
XR NYC joined with a coalition of climate activist groups for six days of action across the city. 49 protesters were arrested during the campaign, which was coordinated by New York Communities for Change and involved multiple blockades of Park Avenue, home to some of the most ecocidal corporations on the planet.
As well as launching actions involving more than 600 people, the coalition scored an early publicity hit by interrupting a live TV interview with a climate-denying senator. ABC, the channel broadcasting the interview, covered the climate crisis for a measly five and a half hours over the entirety of 2021.
A rebel outside the world’s dirtiest bank, JPMorgan Chase. Photo: Katie Godowsky
The rebel alliance first shut down Park Avenue outside BlackRock’s headquarters, the world’s largest asset manager, and another vast and unrepentant investor in fossil fuels. 15 activists were arrested for blocking traffic. Another 10 were arrested the next day for occupying BlackRock’s lobby and dumping coal across its floor.
Activists used two tripods to shut down Park Avenue again outside investment bank JPMorgan Chase, the biggest funder of fossil fuels on the planet. Its CEO has persisted in promoting fossil fuel investment and extraction, while shareholder efforts to push the bank away from financing ecocide have failed.
They came for CEO brains, but made do with tomato soup. Photo: Adrian Childress
Finally, the CEO’s of KKR and Blackstone woke up to find ‘zombie’ activists eating outside their elite apartment block. The private equity groups both own multiple fossil fuel companies and are answerable only to their elite investors. Over half of Blackstone’s investments are in fossil fuels, while for KKR it’s over three quarters. Dumb and dumber.
The week of actions was timed to coincide with the 10th anniversary of Superstorm Sandy, which devastated parts of Manhattan and the New Jersey coast. The risk of more catastrophic damage rises with every year that the current system continues.
8 - 22 OCT | Victoria & South Australia, Australia
Rebels glue themselves to Australia’s sovereign wealth fund in Melbourne for investing in ecocide. Photo: Matt Hrkac
Throughout October, rebels in Victoria and South Australia have marched, blockaded, and even set sail to demand an end to fossil fuel investments, an end to the destruction of native forests, and an end to government climate inaction.
The action began with a trip to Corio Bay, on the unceded territory of the Wadawurrung/Wathaurong people of the Kulin Nations, where rebels took to the waves on kayaks and boats (including a beautiful pink one) to block an oil tanker.
The pink boat returns (hooray!) for the Corio Bay action. Right: a rally in central Melbourne against the financiers of the climate crisis. Photo: Danielle Judd.
Days later, rebels in Victoria reforested the road outside a rapacious state-owned logging company, disrupted the AGM of a major fossil fuel funding bank, and, in collaboration with other climate justice groups, swarmed the streets of Melbourne. There, two rebels made international headlines by gluing themselves to a Picasso painting.
Meanwhile, hundreds of rebels took action at the Asia Pacific Oil & Gas Conference, an event held in Adelaide despite the fact that the South Australian Government has declared a climate emergency. Undeterred by a heavy police presence, rebels blocked the site entrance and disrupted the summit for its three-day run.
Police block access to the Asia Pacific Oil & Gas conference. Right: The magnificent ‘Oilies’ join the Adelaide protest. Photos: Peter Barnes & Ella Ma.
The day after the conference, rebels attended the State Government’s Roundtable on Oil and Gas. They interrupted the Minister for Energy and Mining’s address by locking and glueing themselves to doors inside the venue. Once the room was finally cleared of protesters, the Minister spoke off the cuff to the oil and gas industry, saying “make no mistake, (the protesters) are having an impact”.
And yet the impact has not been enough to trigger Australia’s divorce from fossil fuels - meaning new rebel actions are already in the making. Find out more about the next wave and sign up on the XR Australia website.
5 OCT | Goma, DRC: Rebels march on the final day of the Pre-COP summit, which was being held in the capital Kinshasa. Police reacted violently to the peaceful protest. One rebel was hospitalised after being beaten. Thankfully, he made a full recovery. Sign: Protect The Common Home (The Earth)
8 OCT | Ostrava, Czech Republic: End Coal Now activists occupy Svoboda coal plant. The action was launched after a week-long climate camp in the region.
8 - 9 OCT | Feluy & Liege, Belgium: Rebels joined more than 1000 activists to blockade two oil refineries belonging to Total Energies. The action, organised by Code Rood, was one of Belgium’s largest ever acts of civil disobedience and lasted two days.
10 OCT | Cressier, Switzerland: Activists from Debt For Climate (including rebels) shut down Switzerland’s only oil refinery to highlight the country’s colonial legacy and demand solidarity with the Global South. The blockade used the world’s first ‘Hanging Beacon’ - an elaborate contraption jointly designed by a rebel and a D4C activist.
14 - 25 OCT | Worldwide: Last month saw D4C and Scientist Rebellion campaigns that were global in scope. D4C highlights include solidarity actions in South Africa and Argentina (top). Scientist Rebellion held marches in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and outside the German Embassy in Kinshasa, DRC (below).
21 OCT | Buenos Aires, Argentina: Rebels disrupt the C40 Summit, which brings together more than 100 mayors from around the world to discuss (then do nothing about) the climate crisis.
20/29 OCT | Wolfsburg/Munich: Nine Scientist Rebellion activists glue themselves to the Porsche pavilion of the Volkswagen car museum, calling for a 100 km/h speed limit and other measures to drastically reduce German transport emissions. The action became a two-day occupation. A week later, 16 scientists were arrested for glueing themselves to a BMW dealership and blocking an intersection in Munich. All 16 were imprisoned, some for up to 7 days, while awaiting trial.
OCTOBER | Europe: Last month saw peaceful climate protesters imprisoned across Europe. 16 rebel scientists in Munich faced up to a week in prison, while 13 members of Last Generation are still in preventative detention in the city, and could stay there for up to a month. 6 Just Stop Oil protesters are imprisoned in the UK either awaiting trial or serving sentences, and 3 more supporters were sentenced to 2 months in jail in Holland. Finally, 2 Swedish rebels who occupied an airport runway last October have been sentenced to 2 months in jail - the first time peaceful activists have ever been imprisoned in Sweden. Both are parents to young children.
So much happened this month, we can’t fit it all into one newsletter. Head over to NEWSLETTER XTRA to find out about actions in Nigeria, Panama, India & more. NEWSLETTER XTRA: A feast for the eyes and extra fuel for the soul!
Van Gogh’s Sunflowers was not harmed, but the outcry was worldwide.
Last month Just Stop Oil declared Westminster, home of the UK government, a site of nonviolent civil resistance. They promised to return day after day until their demand - that the government stop all new oil and gas projects - was met.
What followed was an extraordinary 32 days of continuous action across the capital. The bold tactics of a committed band of people garnered global attention, triggered fierce debate, and resulted in 718 arrests.
While it was the small but provocative actions that grabbed the headlines - the soup thrown at Van Gogh’s Sunflowers, the scaling of bridge masts 84m high - it was road blockades that formed the bulk of the campaign. The conviction and resilience needed to take part in these blockades should not be underestimated.
Road blockades are stressful but empowering and require a lot of careful planning.
The resistance campaign started with Just Stop Oil joining climate, socialist, workers, anti-war, and anti-racist groups to march into Westminster. Thousands demanded an end to the climate crisis and the related cost of living crisis, with UK households suffering sky-high energy bills because of government incompetence.
But the huge turnout wasn’t replicated for the road blockades that followed. With the resultant disruption failing to induce policy change or media scrutiny, Just Stop Oil had to get inventive. Small, provocative actions targeting artworks were launched.
No artworks were damaged, but the actions were criticised by many, even those within the climate movement. The fear was that the public would not just recoil from the tactics, but the cause itself.
Various institutions culpable for the climate crisis were sprayed with orange paint, inc. media giant News Corp, the Bank of England, the Home Office & MI5.
Thankfully, the evidence shows that is not the case. Negative media attention on protesters doesn’t harm the underlying cause, does create space for debate of the wider issues, and increases support for the more moderate flanks of the same cause.
Just Stop Oil has seen a big upturn in new recruits since the Van Gogh action, and that’s despite repressive new laws that mean prison time and higher fines are more likely for peaceful but disruptive protest. Six Just Stop Oil activists are currently in prison awaiting trial or serving sentences (read the statements of two of them).
With the UK government still planning to extract oil and gas from the North Sea, Just Stop Oil’s civil resistance will continue. Motorway blockades are planned across the country. As one activist puts it, “We can’t be obedient to a system that is killing us”. We at this newsletter salute the activists of Just Stop Oil for their bravery, empathy, and resilience, and give them our unwavering solidarity.
The World as We Knew It is a collection of essays about personal experiences of climate change from various authors.
A woman describes her intense connection to her home, a desert valley whose saguaro cactuses are gradually dying—and not being replaced by young seedlings—because of chronic drought.
Another begins by describing the invasion of lionfish in Dominican waters, segues into Superstorm Sandy, gender identity, and family dynamics, and ends up on a sand dune in Senegal with her partner under the stars. “Because without these dreams, I do not know how to live”. Another discusses sexism and identity in Antarctica. And on and on.
Not all the authors are women, but many of them are. Some of the stories discuss climate directly, but many of them don’t. One striking aspect of this book is how many of the authors are not Anglo-Americans or white Europeans—to a large extent, this book is a record of perspectives that tend to get drowned out.
It’s a book best read gradually, perhaps one essay or two at a time, with plenty of time to think about and sit with each one. It’s a book largely without answers. It’s a book to read to remember that you’re not alone.
We can’t stop the future, but here’s a chance for writers of all ages to both imagine and help shape the world they’d want to live in. Extinction Rebellion Wordsmiths is opening its second round of Solarpunk storytelling following last year’s successful showcase.
Light up your imaginations, picture a world where we are more in harmony with nature and ourselves, and have also found the technology to help that happen – that is Solarpunk in action!
Today, people are trying to decode whale sounds and electrical signals between fungi. What if they succeeded? In a world where we already carry a computer in our purses, what extraordinary inventions will create this Solarpunk future?
If you’re new to Solarpunk, read some of our favoured entries from last year. If you’re familiar with it… start imagining!
For more information and inspiration, head to our Solarpunk Storytelling Showcase.
This month, the UN's environmental agency has said that there is “NO credible pathway to 1.5C“ because of a lack of political will.
So what’s the plan? Imagine a documentary film designed to motivate thousands of new rebels into civil disobedience, in a Global Emergency Call to Direct Action that inspires billions of people to take part.
An ambitious film for system change like no other. Made by grassroots climate action designers and filmmakers.
DONATE: If, like us, you believe in people power, then please give generously to get this exciting new project moving.
FOLLOW: Follow our progress via our social media channels.
EMAIL: If you think you can help us, contact GetAJobCollective@proton.me
29 OCTOBER | Exeter, UK: Five elderly rebels get doused in fake oil outside a branch of Barclays Bank. One said: "I’m 70. I don’t want to have to take my clothes off in the High Street in order to draw attention to the fact that Barclays Bank continues to invest in fossil fuels, but I have a 4-year-old granddaughter and I will do everything I can to protect the world and her future.” Photos: Shirley Bebbington
Thank you for reading, rebel. If you have any questions or feedback, we want to hear from you. Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Global Newsletter is brought to you by XR Global Support, a worldwide network of rebels who help our movement grow. We need money to continue this crucial work. Your donations, big or small, are much appreciated.
Welcome to Newsletter XTRA, where everything we couldn’t fit into the main Global Newsletter has its moment to shine. This month we cover actions in New Zealand, Nigeria, Serbia, UK, Panama, Germany, India and more…
10 - 19 OCT | Wellington, New Zealand: New group Restore Passenger Rail launched a campaign of motorway blockades across the capital. Activists are demanding the government expand national rail coverage to what it was a decade ago. Dozens were arrested and charged by police across four separate blockades.
13 OCT | Washington DC, USA: Rebels disrupt the annual meeting of the IMF and World Bank as part of a new wave of Debt For Climate (D4C) actions in the run-up to COP27. Activists blocked the entrance to the summit and chanted “Cancel the debt!” as police dragged them away. The World Bank has invested billions into fossil fuels since the Paris Agreement, and the IMF has forced Global South nations into a debt trap that has hamstrung their efforts to decarbonise.
3 NOV | Kaduna, Nigeria: XR Kaduna held a roundtable discussion with media and civil society organisations focused on the impacts of the changing climate, evident in the recent widespread flooding of the country.
15 OCT | Belgrade, Serbia: Rebels join the international D4C coalition and stage a die-in in front of the IMF office in Belgrade.
26 OCT | Holland: A talk show invited a climate activist on to discuss "proper ways to protest" - and then the activist GLUED HIMSELF TO THE TABLE!
14 - 16 OCT | London, UK: A ‘Weekend of Resistance’ featured a protest at Downing Street (home of the British Prime Minister), an arts festival beside the River Thames, and a march to Parliament. A sapling from an ancient oak tree that was the meeting point for the Kett’s Rebellion came along for the ride.
22 OCT | Panama City, Panama: YA ES YA, aka Scientist Rebellion Panama, together with other activist groups, protest at the German Embassy demanding climate action and debt relief for the Global South.
15 OCT | The Hague, Netherlands: 50 rebels blockade a major motorway, demanding the €17.5 billion in subsidies to the fossil fuel industry ends. Photo: Jaap van den Berg
17 OCT | Huelva, Spain: 100 activists from the Rebellion for Climate coalition blockaded the headquarters of Enegás, the main operator of Spain’s gas network. Photo: Rafa del Barrio
16 OCT | Berlin, Germany: Scientist Rebellion interrupts the UN World Health Summit. 30 scientists were detained by police. The protest was the first of a wave of Scientist Rebellion actions across Germany, coordinated with both D4C and Last Generation activists, that lasted 10 days and saw scientists imprisoned.
17/18 OCT | Berlin, Germany: Dozens of D4C activists occupied the Finance Ministry after its minister broke his promise to champion Global South debt cancellation at the IMF & World Bank meeting in Washington. The next day, 50 scientists spilt fake blood down the entrance of the German Transport Ministry.
25 OCT | Munich, Germany: 28 members of D4C and Scientist Rebellion blockade the German headquarters of BlackRock. The giant firm invests in fossil fuel extraction in the Global South, and holds a great share of its debt.
21 OCT | Paris, France: A dozen rebels glue themselves to high-performance cars at the Paris Motor Show. They denounced a polluting industry which greenwashes itself with electric vehicles while continuing to promote the individual car as the transport of the future.
18 OCT | Cape Town, South Africa: Rebels call on African leaders to reject the oil and gas industry’s claim that they bring jobs and energy security to Africa.
22 OCT | Bologna, Italy: Rebels join workers’ unions to march through the city. 30,000 activists came together to demand both climate and social justice.
15 OCT | London, UK: Doctors for XR & Scientists for XR demand their government invest in insulating homes, both to save lives and protect the planet. Families shouldn’t have to choose between heating and eating, they said.
17 OCT | Nantes, France: Rebels have been extinguishing illuminated advertising panels as part of a nationwide "Ce n’est pas Versailles ici” action. The name refers to the French parental refrain: "Turn off the lights when you leave the room, we're not in Versailles here!"
23 OCT | Brussels, Belgium: Led by indigenous people from the Amazon, 30,000 people joined a Climate Coalition through central Brussels.
12 OCT | Vienna, Austria: Rebels block traffic in central Vienna and will continue to do so until the government acts. Half of the country’s emissions come from traffic.
29 OCT | Bern, Switzerland: Six activists from Renovate Switzerland block a major bridge in the Swiss capital, the tenth blockade of the month. The group want the Federal Council to decree a general mobilisation for thermal renovation.
14 OCT | Hasdeo Forest, India: A young environmental activist protests at the Adani Coal Mining site at Hasdeo Forest, Chhattisgarh. The region is a rich biodiversity hotspot covering 170,000 hectares of forest land with over 450 species of plants and animals. More than 20,000 indigenous Adivasi people also live there.